You know that little wooden gadget that sits by the piano that’s called a metronome? It’s one of the most valuable practice tools available to you as a pianist. A piano metronome produces a steady pulse, which will help you to “stay in time” when playing. The pulse can also be sped up or slowed down by adjusting the tempo (usually measured in beats per minute or BPM). Practicing regularly with a metronome can make learning new songs and playing them with other musicians much easier and more enjoyable. But before we dive further into the benefits of our little time keeping friends, let’s look at some of the best metronomes for piano.
Best free metronomes for piano
And yes, that’s right…free. There are loads of free metronome apps in the market but our best pick for both iOS and Android devices is Soundbrenner.
Our friends at Soundbrenner are also about to launch the world’s first watch made for musicians The Soundbrenner Core. Among other tools, it features a vibrating metronome that allows you to actually feel the beat, replacing the intrusive audible “click” with vibrations 7x stronger than the average smartwatch.
If you don’t have a smartphone, or you’d prefer something physical, then there are plenty of options available online for around 10$ – 20$.
How and when to use a metronome
1. When first learning a song
When first learning a song, it can be really useful to practice it using a metronome. Make sure you set the BPM at a really slow tempo. This will help you to execute the rhythms in the song accurately and imprint them into your memory. It’s important that you initially set the tempo low enough so that you can play without getting stuck or losing time. Once you feel confident, you can start to speed up the metronome’s tempo and eventually turn it off altogether. If a section of the song is still causing you issues, turn the metronome back on at a slow tempo. Practice an even smaller section paying close attention to your timing. In this many Skoove lessons you are able to practice each part of a song separately, like in Skoove’s Beginner Course 2.
2. To improve your sense of rhythm (inner timing)
Having a good sense of rhythm and inner timing is a really important ability to have when performing, especially when you’re playing with other musicians. Being able to play and maintain a consistent speed will ensure that you are in sync with your bandmates. To get a taste for what it’s like playing along with a band and to see how good your timing is, try and play along with the Skoove lesson below. Don’t worry if you can’t keep up at first, just be patient and give it a few tries.
Skoove gives feedback on your playing. Find out how plugging your keyboard to your computer improves it.
Playing alongside a band like this, is a great way to test and improve your timing. So be sure to try out some more of the Skoove play along lessons below.
Here is another song that requires you to play steadily in time.
3. Recording to a click track
When recording parts for a song, whether in a music studio or at home using music production software, you will usually have to record your parts to a click track (metronome). It’s important that you can do this confidently and accurately, so that your parts sound good and are in time with the rest of the track. Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of playing to a click track though, just practice playing things with a metronome. Your timing will be good enough to lay down some killer parts when the time comes!
Play this lesson along to the band and imagine you are a pianist in a recording session.
4. Playing Rubato
When performing, especially as a soloist or while improvising in a band, it is not always best to play at a regular speed. Sometimes, songs can have more impact when the player speeds up and slows down the tempo. This concept is called “Tempo Rubato”, and to get a better idea of how it works, make sure to try out the Skoove lesson below.
More information about Tempo Rubato here.
Final words on the metronome
To wrap this article up, I just want to remind you that no single musician on the planet has absolutely perfect timing. Without a metronome, even the likes of Bill Evans and Beethoven would eventually speed up or slow down! Just make sure that you get your hands on a metronome and use it regularly when practicing. And if you’re really serious about playing at a high level, spend some time getting used to playing along with full bands using Skoove’s band play alongs.
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Author of this blog post
Elliot Hogg – Music tutor from Leeds who specializes in teaching piano, music theory, and music composition.