A metronome is a handy tool that can make music practice more fun and effective. By making steady clicks, measured in beats per minute, a metronome sets the pace and helps a music student feel the pulse as they play. Piano students who learn how to play with a metronome will be able to progress faster in their music studies, and will also find it easier to play along with others. It’s a valuable skill, but it can be difficult to learn, so here’s how to introduce the metronome to your beginning piano student.
Introducing the Metronome
When first introducing a piano student to the metronome, it is good to let them just listen to several different tempos. Let them hear how a low number on the metronome means a slower tempo, while a high number means a faster tempo. After some listening time, encourage them to nod, clap, stomp, or tap along with the beat. Once they can keep the beat with a clap or tap, have them play a single note on the piano in time with the metronome, one note for every click. Keeping to a steady beat is a tricky thing, so be very patient and positive with your child.
Using the Metronome in Practice
A metronome is great for practicing finger power exercises, like those in Unit One lessons 12, 16, and 18. Start with the metronome set around 66, and have your child play one note per click. This might feel slow to some students, but if they can’t learn to play well at a slow pace, they won’t be in control of their playing at a fast pace. Clap or tap along with them as needed. Once your student can play the finger exercise perfectly, turn the metronome up to a slightly faster speed and try again.
Using a metronome can make practice more engaging by increasing the challenge and giving your child goals to work toward. I’ve already mentioned one basic game, which is to increase the speed by a small amount, say 4 beats per minute, for every time a section of music is played perfectly. In addition, you can decrease the metronome speed by a small amount every time your child makes a mistake. To give the game a goal, either practice until a certain speed is reached on the metronome, or decide with your child to play the chosen section a certain number of times, then see what the metronome “score” is.
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Be patient as your child learns to play along with a metronome. This skill can take up to a year to master, but it is definitely worth it. Piano students who can play with a metronome have a great advantage as they reach higher levels of piano study. They will know how to maintain a steady beat, how to control the speed of their playing, and will be able to keep pace with other musicians when they play in a group.