Nobody likes using a metronome - so why do we? Do professional musicians actually use metronomes? In this article, we hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions regarding metronomes and metronome apps.
1. When Should I Use a Metronome?
This is a question that is often not well answered for newer musicians. There are two main situations where using a metronome is a generally good idea. The first is when you need to practice a complex or problematic passage in a piece of music. The second is practicing scales, patterns, and rudiments with a metronome periodically to improve overall skill.
2. When Should I NOT Use a Metronome?
An example of a time when using a metronome is not useful is when you are just getting a grasp of the notes in a song or passage. There is no benefit to having a metronome continue to click on as you fumble with the notes and phrasing. It is therefore a good idea to get a feel for the notes and fingerings of a passage before you employ a metronome.
3. Do REAL Musicians Use Metronomes?
Overwhelmingly, yes. Many pro-level musicians, including Eric Barfield, swear by practicing with a metronome. Many jazz bass players, whose role often involves playing quarter note-driven walking bass lines, also practice almost entirely with metronomes.
On the other side, at a very high level of musicianship there is question of how useful a metronome is. Particularly in how a metronome can't provide a true swing and how accelerandos and ritardandos are generally not possible. However, until you get to that skill level, a metronome will only help improve your rhythm and time.
Until you have very high skill in rhythm and feel, there is no need to break the rules of time.
"To be an artist one must be able to play in perfect time slow, fast or anywhere between. Then one must be able to leave the time at will. This is not the same as having the time leave the player, and that is the effect if one is not able to play with the metronome." M. L. Carr, Violin World, March 1896
4. Is It Necessary?
No... but... it depends what your goals are. The use of a metronome is certainly not necessary to becoming a musician or to enjoying playing music. HOWEVER, undoubtedly, proper integration of a metronome into a musician's practice will improve their rhythm and time feel and lead to more satisfaction in playing music. This goes for singers as well.
If you want to further your skills with your musical instrument, playing with a metronome and improving your time is one of the best ways to do it.
One of the common problems in amateur and intermediate musicians, is the tendency to rush or drag while playing. A metronome can help these problems by solidifying musician's time.
5. Where Can I Get a Metronome?
In the past, dedicated metronome devices, either mechanical or digital, were popular and often quite expensive. These days, with the prevalence of smartphones and apps, there are many great metronomes available at your fingertips. Many of them feature options which go above and beyond what a traditional metronome can offer. For iOS devices, we recommend SpeakBeat Metronome, which can actually count the beat for you instead of just providing a click. Read more in our Voice Counting Metronome Quick Start Guide. For more metronome app suggestions, you can check out our article Best Metronome Apps for Piano Players.
Looking for a simple online metronome? Check out our Free Online Metronome.