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If you want to stay on beat, you’re going to want to use a metronome. Whether you’re a drummer, pianist, composer or conductor, a metronome is an essential tool during rehearsals and recordings to help set the timing, and to help everyone stay on tempo.
The best metronomes are a great way to introduce rhythm and to establish more accurate musical timing. The visual cue helps people maintain their pace, even if their ears are focused on their instrument. Metronomes are also great for helping performers develop better agility and preciseness while singing or playing.
Most metronomes work in two ways: you can follow the metronome audibly (by listening for the ticking sound it makes), or you can follow it visually, by watching the pendulum swing past a center point. Some metronomes use an LED indicator light to signal the beat, while others provide a beep or clicking sound, when it doesn’t have a physical pendulum.
Metronomes measure their pace in beats per minute, and most units can play beats from 35 to 250 BPM. Set the beat by sliding a marker scale down the pendulum, or by turning a dial to your desired tempo. The way you set the beat will depend on the type of metronome you have, while the tempo will depend on the style of song you want to play. Most contemporary pop songs range between 60-90 BPM, while rock songs can go from 110-120 BPM. Dance and EMD tracks soar from 160 BPM+.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Metronome
There are three main types of metronomes: mechanical, quartz and digital.
Mechanical metronomes have a pyramid-like shape, with a swinging pendulum down the middle. The pendulum swings left to right, similar to a windshield wiper, and the metronome emits a clicking sound each time the pendulum passes the center of the device.
Quartz metronomes use blinking lights to signal the beat, though you can often choose an auditory cue as well. You can change and adjust the desired tempo using a dial.
Digital metronomes are the newest style of metronome, and are often more portable and discreet than the traditional wooden pyramid block. The best digital metronomes even offer a range of different tempo cues, from clicks to electronic beeps to drum sounds too. Like a quartz metronome, it also has an indicator light that blinks to your desired tempo.
1. Tempi Metronome for Musicians
You can’t go wrong with this mechanical metronome from Tempi, which is made with genuine steel parts and finished with a handsome mahogany wood veneer over the plastic construction. This is a traditional pyramid-style metronome that emits a clear, clicking sound.
The slider is easy to adjust to set the tempo, and four grippy legs on the bottom of the unit helps it stay stable on any flat surface (say, on top of your piano or on a nearby shelf).
The metronome doesn’t require any batteries, and offers tempos from 40 to 208 BPM. Wind it up from the side and the metronome can tick for an average of 20 minutes before needing to be wound up again.
PROS: No batteries required. This is the most common style of metronome and easy to learn and follow.
CONS: At 9.5 x 4.8 inches, this is the largest size on our list.
2. Seiko Quartz Metronome
What better way to keep track of timing than with this unit from renowned watchmaker, Seiko? Though they’re best-known for their timepieces, Seiko has also been manufacturing accessories for musicians and instruments since the 1930s.
This quartz metronome is made from a lightweight plastic with a kick-out stand in the back. Set the tempo by turning the rotary dial. The dial offers 39 different positions, with marked intervals and tempo options ranging from 40 to 208 BPM. The dial also includes Italian tempo terminology to help you set the right pace for your track, based on what you’re trying to express and the style of song you’re playing.
Choose to turn up a clicking sound or turn it down. A built-in red LED light at the top blinks to the beat, letting you stay together without a clicking noise interrupting your practice or performance.
This measures 5.1 x 3 inches and tucks easily into a bag or pouch if you need to take it to go.
PROS: Portable size; easy to read, hear and see the beat.
CONS: The red indicator light can’t be turned off, so some may find that distracting.
3. Wittner Metronome
This digital metronome is a great choice if you’re practicing on your own, or want to stay on beat without disturbing those around you. The unit comes with a pair of earphones that let you plug in, so you’re the only one hearing the sounds coming from the device.
Set the tempo using the rotary dial. The tempo range goes from 40 to 208 beats per minute. Like the Seiko model, this one also includes interval markings and common musical terms as a guide.
The audible “tick-tock” sound is more direct and clear than the clicking sound of other metronomes on our list. Users say it sounds more like striking a wooden block, rather than the ticking of an alarm clock. Prefer a visual cue? A red dot in the corner lights up to the beat.
The metronome is made from a durable plastic construction that won’t dent or scratch if accidentally dropped. The metronome comes with a pop-out metal stand in the back to let you prop it up.
This unit measures 5.1 x 3.5 inches.
PROS: Earbuds let you plug in and tune everyone else out.
CONS: Some found the ticking sound to be very loud; also, there is no volume control.