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Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
#2801518 01/13/19 11:50 AM
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Sorry, I'm a non-teacher posting in the teachers' forum.

I've been told by a teacher not to use a metronome. Many players on the forums seem to find them useful. I'm trying to decide whether to buy one. I've heard they're helpful with Hanon, learning trills, etc.

I'd appreciate any opinions on this topic.

Thank you.


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801540 01/13/19 01:08 PM
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There is many metronome apps for cellphone, try one of those first before you buy.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801615 01/13/19 05:25 PM
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I'm also not a piano teacher.
Metronome is a tool which is useful for some purposes, useless for other purposes, and dangerous for still others. Think of a hammer. It's great for driving nails, ok for pounding other stuff, and completely wrong for many other purposes.


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801619 01/13/19 05:34 PM
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Do you know why your teacher does not want you to use a metronome?


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B. Mus., M.Mus. (piano performance & pedagogy).
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801628 01/13/19 05:43 PM
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A metronome is great for determining a rough tempo for a piece you are learning. It is great if you want to play metronomically. It is great when practicing polyrhythms or complicated rhythmic passages.

It is not great if you want to play music or to play musically.

Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801739 01/14/19 01:12 AM
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For me, it depends on the propensity of the student. Some students can't follow a metronome, ever. It distracts them, no matter how many times they try.

With other students, a metronome becomes a crutch to counting. They absolutely fall apart without the metronome.

Still, with other students, a metronome makes them super players.

I use a metronome with all students, but I don't force it upon them if it doesn't work for them.


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2801829 01/14/19 09:42 AM
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I use a metronome frequently.

Like recording, it keeps you honest. It is very hard to hear if you're cheating the rhythms or counting incorrectly otherwise. The metronome doesn't lie. Do you pause between sections? Unless you check, you don't know.

Also, if you have one of the phone apps, you can set a distinctive beat one. When playing syncopated patterns it is easy to add or drop a beat without realizing it, but if one isn't on one then you're wrong.

It teaches you to adapt to an external time. If you can't play with a metronome, you likely can't play with another person, who is even less predictable. But that doesn't matter to everybody.

I use mine when I work out, too. I set it for 60 and use it to time my planks, etc.

My free phone app is a tuner, metronome, drone, and I guess it records but I've never used that feature.


gotta go practice
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802194 01/15/19 09:12 AM
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I believe that it is not as much a question of whether to use a metronome, but when to use it, how to use it, for what purpose, and why - which then gives an answer to whether to use it. Your teacher's reasons probably hinge around those things.

Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802195 01/15/19 09:19 AM
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Well, I mostly agree with keystring, but I also think with some people there is just a strong prejudice against it. The claim is that it will produce "metronomic" playing, without expression. I find that claim dubious myself. But then, most of my playing is instrumental in an ensemble, and as part of the group you do use rubato but it must be a shared one, not an individual choice.

I think learning to play with a metronome is an essential skill that should be mastered early before it becomes a phobia.


gotta go practice
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802198 01/15/19 09:41 AM
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I've no doubt that the metronome can be a useful tool in some circumstances, but I believe that a far more important concept that teachers must instil in all their students is counting beats aloud - from the first lesson, no matter which method book they use (or don't use). A student who was never taught that properly (and the fact that music = notes plus rhythm) - or at all - will likely end up totally dependent on some other 'outside' means of keeping time......like a metronome.

I've seen more than a few learners (mostly adults rather than kids, who seem to be better taught) who can play in perfect time with the click-click of a metronome - obviously they learnt and practiced with it - but as soon as the clicking stopped, their rhythm and tempo goes haywire. Is that musical? Are they musical?

None of my four teachers ever used a metronome with me - in fact, I never even saw one (or knew what one was) until I studied with my last teacher.....and he only used it (very rarely) to check the tempo I was playing at.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802200 01/15/19 09:42 AM
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Is the idea with a metronome to have it ticking away all the time or just to check it for a few seconds to get the idea and then switch off and play ? Having a wooden one knocking away all the time would drive me mad .A silent , visual , one would be like a conductor. That would be much better . It would translate the speed number printed on music in a useful way .
Do the wooden ones have the words like Allego printed on them ?
I just checked and the Amoon one has a softer sound and a very visual swinging arm .I would be happy with that . Is there one to help with Fugues ?

Last edited by Jt2nd; 01/15/19 09:49 AM.
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
Jt2nd #2802280 01/15/19 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Jt2nd
Is the idea with a metronome to have it ticking away all the time or just to check it for a few seconds to get the idea and then switch off and play ?


Something in between, depending on the experience of the student.
An experienced player who CAN keep a steady beat internally and who can play with a metronome as needed would use it occasionally and briefly.
I would not think anyone would use one all the time. But while working out rhythms, you might need it for extended periods.

You would not use one in performance. (You wouldn't need one, you'd have a clicktrack going on an IEM).


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802290 01/15/19 02:14 PM
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I thought of a way to explain how I think it should be used.

Can you play four quarter notes of exactly equal length?

How do you know? You check with a metronome.

You don't wait to hear the metronome and let it guide you to equal length quarter notes, that comes from your internal beat, but without the external check you will fool yourself. It recalibrates your sense of time.


gotta go practice
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
TimR #2802301 01/15/19 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
I thought of a way to explain how I think it should be used.

Can you play four quarter notes of exactly equal length?

How do you know? You check with a metronome.

I disagree.

You listen to yourself - record yourself on your phone and play it back, if you're not sure. Train your ears, not rely on a mechanical instrument. Learn to listen to yourself.

BTW, you never play to a click track when playing piano, unless you're accompanying a soundtrack or movie etc. If you're good enough to do the latter, you wouldn't be needing a metronome to keep time for practicing.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802454 01/15/19 09:31 PM
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There are simple web tools you can use to check your recordings:
https://www.all8.com/tools/bpm.htm
You can use it on your favorite pro recording too, it's enlightening.

Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
TimR #2802485 01/15/19 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
I thought of a way to explain how I think it should be used.

Can you play four quarter notes of exactly equal length?

How do you know? You check with a metronome.

You don't wait to hear the metronome and let it guide you to equal length quarter notes, that comes from your internal beat, but without the external check you will fool yourself. It recalibrates your sense of time.
Sorry, but this is not relevant to the art of making music.

First off, the word 'exact' is a fool's word. Even a metronome is incapable of producing exactly equal length beats and neither is the NIST 'atomic' clock. The correct word is 'precise', and you may choose your level of precision.

Secondly, musicians and ballet dancers and tap dancers and drummers and such have been producing precisely equal length dance steps and quarter notes and such long before any metronome or clock could aid them. We musicians have an internal sense of rhythm which is not only extremely accurate, but simultaneously musical.

Last edited by prout; 01/15/19 11:17 PM.
Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
DDobs #2802514 01/16/19 03:09 AM
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I use a metronome for practice most of the time after I learned a piece well enough. In the beginning I'm just learning to right notes and usually not overly concerned with counting exactly. After a while practicing the same notes over and over I have a tendency to speed up and feel my current speed of playing gets rather slow. I need a metronome to keep me playing at a certain tempo.

In performance obviously not. You don't usually play every beat the exact same. Some of the time you'd be a touch ahead of the beat and some of the time behind. As long as you are not too far off should be OK.

Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
bennevis #2802598 01/16/19 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by TimR
I thought of a way to explain how I think it should be used.

Can you play four quarter notes of exactly equal length?

How do you know? You check with a metronome.

I disagree.

You listen to yourself - record yourself on your phone and play it back, if you're not sure. Train your ears, not rely on a mechanical instrument. Learn to listen to yourself.


Well of course that's the goal. But it is impossible for beginners to listen to themselves in real time, and apparently intermediates struggle as well. (and church musicians - don't get me started!)

And yes recordings are very effective, and nobody should neglect to do this. But a metronome is often the quickest and easiest way to check how closely you're playing.

Sorry I brought up click track, it's not really relevant. But if you do session work at all, it's not an option, it's a requirement. The only thing I use it for is if I'm making a multitrack. Yes, you can set your software to play your previous tracks back, but without the click track the latency adds.


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
prout #2802601 01/16/19 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by prout

Secondly, musicians and ballet dancers and tap dancers and drummers and such have been producing precisely equal length dance steps and quarter notes and such long before any metronome or clock could aid them. We musicians have an internal sense of rhythm which is not only extremely accurate, but simultaneously musical.


On precise vs exact, point taken. You are correct, my wording was bad.

On the precision produced, yes and no. I don't teach beginners but for social reasons I've attended quite a number of recitals. Students do NOT exhibit an internal sense of rhythm! Whether a metronome would ameliorate that I don't know. It would surely point it out though.

The point I was trying to make with my example is that I use the metronome to verify precision, not to produce it. It's a check, not a forcing function. (when used as a forcing function, you end up playing late.)

Many musicians and dancers do have the internal pulse. In my experience these are all people who play in ensembles or dance to accompaniments regularly. Piano students are almost exclusively solo performers and I suspect that is what makes the difference.


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Re: Question for Teachers - Metronome or Not?
TimR #2802613 01/16/19 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by prout

Secondly, musicians and ballet dancers and tap dancers and drummers and such have been producing precisely equal length dance steps and quarter notes and such long before any metronome or clock could aid them. We musicians have an internal sense of rhythm which is not only extremely accurate, but simultaneously musical.


On precise vs exact, point taken. You are correct, my wording was bad.

On the precision produced, yes and no. I don't teach beginners but for social reasons I've attended quite a number of recitals. Students do NOT exhibit an internal sense of rhythm! Whether a metronome would ameliorate that I don't know. It would surely point it out though.

The point I was trying to make with my example is that I use the metronome to verify precision, not to produce it. It's a check, not a forcing function. (when used as a forcing function, you end up playing late.)

Many musicians and dancers do have the internal pulse. In my experience these are all people who play in ensembles or dance to accompaniments regularly. Piano students are almost exclusively solo performers and I suspect that is what makes the difference.


You make a good point about solo pianists. I hadn't thought of it that way.

In the spirit of honesty, my ab initio teacher ignored teaching me rhythm completely, though I could sight read anything. My new teacher, when we moved to a new city, actually laughed at me when I first played for him, and refused to take me on, but at the insistance of my mother, agreed on the basis that I did not touch the piano for six months, but only clapped ryhthms he provided using a metronome.

I am eternally grateful for that experience. My sense of rhythm is much better now after 50 years as a professional musician, though the ab initio teacher really screwed me up. She is rotting in h*ll now, I would expect, if I were religious.

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