How to Use a Metronome

By | March 18, 2016

What is a metronome?

The metronome is an essential tool for any musician and performers of all levels. It’s not just a piece of music instrument that you can use to try and play as fast as possible. There are plenty of manner ins which we can use a metronome to improve our skills.

Listen Thoroughly

One perk of using a metronome that lots of people take for granted is that it compels you to listen more carefully, and it also requires that you listen to something other than yourself, thus boosting your awareness of music. First, be sure that your metronome is loud enough so that you can hear it clearly. You can test that by turning on the metronome at a moderately slow tempo and playing some simple rhythms. If you have trouble hearing the clicking metronome clearly, try using a talking metronome, or consider getting a louder speaker.

Choose an Appropriate Tempo

Whether you are focusing on a separated section of music or an whole piece, it is important that you choose a tempo that will help you in learning the music properly. Most students err for attempting to play too fast. As a result, they often disregard parts that are tough and never really learn the music they are trying to play.

Start with a tempo at which you can play your music effortlessly and accurately. It might possibly seem like the tempo is much too slow in the beginning, but by playing the music precisely and staying relaxed while doing so, you are establishing and reinforcing good habits.

In some cases composers will include a metronome marking or number that indicates the beats per minute. For example, the piece might say “quarter note = 100.” When you see a marking with a particular number, it does not mean that you should begin practicing the piece at that tempo. Make that tempo your goal, but start your practice at a slower pace.

Composers might also indicate tempos with Italian terms like adagio, andante, moderato, or allegro. Some metronomes feature these terms in addition to the Beats Per Minute (BPM) numbers. However, those tempo ranges are not entirely precise and can be misleading. If the music you are working with is marked “Allegro” and your metronome says that allegro is 120 BPM, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to play the piece at 120.

Slowly Increase the Tempo and Isolate

If the music you are practicing is marked at 112 BPM and you can only play it precisely at 84 BPM, be patient and accelerate the tempo gradually, going up one notch each time. If there is one section of the piece that is much more difficult than the rest of it, isolate that section and slow it down to a comfortable tempo. Exercise it more frequently than the easier sections of the music and gradually increase the tempo until it matches that of the remainder of the piece. Besides the error of attempting to play too fast, some of the biggest mistakes that students make is to ignore the difficult sections in a piece of music. Listen carefully to yourself and to the metronome, and make sure that you are playing accurately.

 

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