Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt
button

FEATURES AND TYPES OF METRONOMES

For those who don't keep up with the latest technological advances of metronome science, here is a brief rundown of what features are now available and the different types of metronomes.

Features

  1. Notches. Traditional metronomes and even many digital metronomes are marked with increases of approximately 5% for each notch or setting. That is why:

    • From 40-60 each notch increases by 2 bpm (beats per minute)
    • From 60-72 each notch increases by 3 bpm
    • From 72-120 each notch increases by 4 bpm
    • From 120-144 each notch increases by 6 bpm
    • From 144-208 each notch increases by 8 bpm

    Many digital metronomes can be set in increments of 1 bpm. Some can be set in even finer increments with decimal entry. (My online metronome on DouglasNiedt.com has single-digit increments).
    Some guitarists prefer the 1 bpm increments so that at high speeds they can increase the setting by 5's or less instead of being stuck with having to skip by 8's in the 144-208 range.
  2. Tempo Range. The standard bpm range of metronomes is 40-208 bpm. But one can find digital metronomes with ranges that begin at 1 bpm and go into the 1000's bpm. (My online metronome on DouglasNiedt.com has a range of 15-480).
  3. Volume. Some metronomes are louder than others. Loud is usually better. But it is best to have a volume control. Some hand-held metronomes have a volume control. Phone app metronomes of course can be controlled by the volume control of the phone, but some have independent controls as well. Many online metronomes do not. (My online metronome on DouglasNiedt.com does have a volume control). An ear bud jack is always handy.
  4. Click Tone. Some people are sensitive (my wife for instance) to the tone of the click. She refused to use one of my metronomes in her piano practice because she could not stand the sound of the click. After rummaging through my collection of metronomes I have accumulated over the years, I finally found one she found agreeable. That is one good thing about a lot of software and phone app metronomes. They usually give you options of click sounds from which to choose. Some have a huge variety from which to choose. Most handheld metronomes only have a choice of one or two sounds.

    Many metronomes have the same click for every beat. On others you can choose to have certain beats accented or played with a different sound. This can be helpful if you’re having difficulty feeling the subdivisions within a meter or beat. But sometimes it can lead to confusion. You just have to try it.
  5. Practice Modes. Some phone app metronomes and desktop metronomes can be programmed to gradually increase their speeds, either by specific numbers of beats or by ratios over a set period of time. Most make the tempo changes in stairstep fashion. The complex devices and desktop versions can also make the changes gradual over a specified time that you choose. The developers say these features are for warmup, cool down, building speed, or changing between fast/slow practice. I have never used these features. I find that reaching over and changing the speed manually does not require a great expenditure of energy on my part…
  6. Go silent mode, practice mode, play/mute mode. The name varies from metronome to metronome. Not many metronomes have this function. You program the device to click for X number of measures and then go silent (mute) for Y number of measures. Then it comes back on, goes off, etc. It is actually very useful to check if you are holding your tempo steady. Most metronomes can only be set to one X and one Y value. Complex desktop metronomes can be programmed to play/mute in any combination of numbers of measures (or time).
  7. Crazy Stuff. From there, things get crazier. You will find choices of LED or LCD lights, light patterns, choice of complex compound/multiple time signatures, ability to communicate with musicians in other solar systems, choice of complex beat patterns you will never play, complex subdivision, programmable rhythms, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connected units, auto off, timer functions, tone generators, upbeat and downbeat indicators, vibrating metronomes, networking capabilities, programmable practice routines, and other features that will keep you up at night wondering how you can use them.

Types of metronomes

  1. Traditional pyramid-shaped wood or plastic. MUST be used on level service. You will need to keep a level in your guitar case! Even on a level surface they are not very precise. Newer versions have options to accent selected beats with a different tone. Overall a poor choice, but their old-school charm does have a certain appeal.
  2. Handheld digital. Many guitarists prefer the portability of a handheld metronome. Usually these are very accurate and rugged. Beethoven could have thrown one around during a tantrum and it would never have missed a beat. Basic models with a tuner, light-only switch, and earbud jack are inexpensive. More advanced models have additional bells and whistles such as volume control, choice of click tones (including voice), ability to choose time signatures, choice of which beats to accent with varied tones, choice of specific rhythm patterns, auto-off, timer functions, tap tempo, tone generator, pre-beat (upbeat) function, downbeat indicator, etc. etc. etc.
  3. Hand-held talking metronome. Some people already hate the metronome. When it talks to them, they go bonkers. Give one to someone you don't like as a gift. But seriously, they are VERY effective in correcting rhythm problems. I use one frequently in my teaching.
  4. Online live (as opposed to downloadable) metronomes are surprisingly limited and are often computer security risks. Many operate with flash which is no longer supported by most browsers unless you specifically allow it. Personally, I would not. Some of the online metronomes I tested contain malware or attempt to direct you to malevolent websites. The online metronome on DouglasNiedt.com is safe, and very easy to use.

    In the United States, if you type in "Online Metronome" into Google Search, a metronome will appear at the top of the page. It is very basic, but it works and is safe.
  5. Online downloadable metronomes are also available, usually with increased functionality. The only one I have tested is the Bounce Metronome. It is very good, does just about everything but cook your dinner, but is VERY complex. Power user tip: You will need to click "File/Reset Nearly Everything" quite often as you try out all the various functions, do the wrong things, and make a hopeless mess of it!
  6. Phone apps. I am an Android guy and I began counting how many metronome apps are in the Google Play Store. I gave up after 120. I have only tried a few. Some are simple (nothing wrong with that) and others have tons of features, many of which you will never use. I like Pro Metronome from EUM Lab for iOS and Android. It is a little complicated, but the complexities can be ignored and the app used in a basic mode. The downside to metronome phone apps is that they can seriously drain your battery power.
  7. Vibrating metronomes. Some guitarists have difficulty playing in sync with the click of the metronome. Or, they (or others in the household) don't want to listen to interminable clicks. Vibrating metronomes were invented for these people, so they can feel the beat. I am familiar with two: Soundbrenner and Peterson. Soundbrenner is terrible. It clicks unevenly in both the hardware and phone app versions. The Peterson is excellent.

    For $30-40, one can purchase just the Peterson BodyBeat Pulse Solo metronome accessory. "Connect it to the audio output of your smartphone for use with metronome apps or to a traditional metronome's headphone output. The BodyBeat Pulse Solo converts the click into a clear pulse that you can clip to your belt, shoe, or other desired location. For situations where you can't or don't want to audibly hear your metronome."

    Actually, you can hear the vibratory pulse. It is very quiet. But I was hoping for absolutely silent.

    Or, for those who love advanced and amazing gadgets, for $140 you can purchase the physical Peterson metronome in the full-featured Peterson Body Beat Sync. They tell us The Body Beat Sync® represents the ultimate in musical tempo reference devices and transmits the beat by visual, aural and tactile means. It can be networked with multiple devices onstage for a music ensemble. It can store presets and tempo maps. It too can communicate with musicians in other solar systems.
  8. Drum machines (hardware and software versions). These are advanced metronomes obviously designed for percussionists but very useful for any musician. They tend to be higher in price, have every feature imaginable, and are programmable.