The best metronome
For a musician, the difference between becoming distinguished and being disregarded may be as simple as learning how to keep a steady beat. With a little diligence, a metronome is the tool that can transform a novice into a maestro.
The best metronome is versatile enough to play in different time signatures and offer audio and visual cues to the performer. Peterson BodyBeat Wireless Sync Pulsating Metronome is a top-of-the-line metronome that doesn't need to be seen or heard because you can feel the beat. To learn more about what to look for in a quality metronome, keep reading.
Considerations when choosing metronomes
Mechanical vs. electronic metronomes
A mechanical metronome is the classic metronome -- you wind it up and an inverted pendulum swings back and forth, providing visual and audio cues as it ticks. Although these types of metronomes are limited to delivering a steady click, many musicians prefer them for their simplicity.
Electronic metronomes are versatile tools that can keep time in any meter and offer cues for subdivisions, if needed. Top models can be listened to and/or watched, while some more advanced electronic metronomes can even be felt. Look for a model with a headphone jack so you can easily hear the beat, even in a noisy environment. If you play an instrument that needs to be tuned, a model with a built-in tuner is the way to go.
Volume: If your metronome is soft enough to be drowned out by your instrument, you will have a difficult time following the beat. Make sure you can hear its click above your practicing.
Size: Decide whether you prefer something small that is easy to conceal while performing or something large that is easy to see while practicing.
Screen: If you opt for an electronic metronome, find one with a backlit screen that is crisp and easy to read in any type of lighting.
Tap tempo: Many electronic metronomes have a tap tempo feature that allows you to quickly tap in the tempo as opposed to entering a specific number.
Control-button placement: Even if an electronic metronome is small enough to fit in your pocket, it needs to have control buttons that are large enough and spaced far enough apart so you don't accidentally hit the wrong one.
Because technology has become so affordable, you can get a basic metronome for under $10. However, if it's within your budget, hold out for a model that is between $10 and $35. In this price range, you can get a mini mechanical metronome or a fairly complex electronic model that also includes tuning features. Once you move above $50, you can find some beautiful mechanical metronomes that look as good as they sound, as well as electronic models with an abundance of bells and whistles.
Q. What speed should I set my metronome to when practicing?
A. The main purpose of a metronome is to use it so you can play steadily (if the music calls for that) at the proper tempo so the song sounds the way the composer originally envisioned it. When practicing, you should slow the metronome down to a tempo that allows you to play the song or passage flawlessly. As you get better, gradually increase the speed until it matches the markings printed on the sheet music.
Q. How important are metronome markings in live performance?
A. Music is meant to evoke emotion; that's why there are adjectives printed at the beginning of a song. These words (whether they're in Italian or English) inform you of the emotion the composer wanted to convey. The metronome markings tell the musician precisely how many beats per minute it takes to create that emotion (in the composer's mind). However, an artist can always choose to interpret the music differently.
Metronomes we recommend
Best of the best: Peterson BodyBeat Wireless Sync Pulsating Metronome
Our take: A high-end metronome with all the bells and whistles.
What we like: The pulse from this metronome can be listened to, watched, or felt, leaving the musician to decide which is best suited for their particular situation. Multiple units can be synced for ensembles and it has a built-in seven-octave chromatic tuner.
What we dislike: The only drawback to this remarkable device is the high price tag.
Best bang for your buck: Korg Instrument Tuner and Metronome
Our take: A comfortably priced, multifunction tuner for both aspiring and professional musicians.
What we like: Korg's handy device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, it can simultaneously serve as both a tuner and a metronome, and it features an enhanced two-level backlight to ensure the LCD display is always easy to see.
What we dislike: The volume of the metronome is a little weaker than is desirable.
Choice 3: Wittner Faux-Mahogany Metronome
Our take: A classic mechanical metronome that just delivers the beat of the music.
What we like: This elegantly designed metronome is manufactured to look as impressive as it sounds. The faux mahogany case is highly detailed and although the unit is designed to run for 18 continuous minutes per winding, most users find it lasts considerably longer.
What we dislike: Occasionally, some models with an uneven beat slip through quality control.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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