What is a metronome? Learn all about how to use a metronome for piano practice
My music teacher used to say, “The right note played at the wrong time is the wrong note.” Did you know that there’s a little device that can help with your timing? It’s called a metronome! I’m Hoffman Academy teacher Matt Sazima. In today’s episode of Music Notes, I’m going to teach you how to practice with a metronome to play those right notes at the right time.
What is a Metronome? Piano students can benefit from using one
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.
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.
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How to use a Metronome: Start by Learning the Notes
If you’re working on a piece of music you probably start by learning the notes first. You’ve made note of the time signature and the key signature, and you’ve got an idea of the rhythm. Once you are fairly comfortable with where the notes fall on your instrument, it’s time to make sure your timing is locked in. Start with a piece of music you’re already comfortable with. This means you should know the notes, which fingers you will use, and know the rhythm of the piece or section.
How to Practice with a Metronome: Setting Your Time and Tempo
Now it’s time to grab your metronome. If you don’t have one, here are some recommendations from Mr. Hoffman. Set your time signature, if it’s an option on your metronome. I’m going to practice in 4/4 time. Pick your tempo. A moderate tempo like 70 beats per minute is a good place to start. If you’re new to the metronome settings and start too slow it can be difficult to get locked in with the beat. If you start too fast, you might not be able to keep up and your technique may suffer. In the video above, I’m going to demonstrate playing the C Major scale. In this case, each note I’m playing is a quarter note, and each beat on the metronome is a quarter note. As I play, every note lines up with a click of the metronome – at least it should, if I’m playing in time. After you get comfortable with a piece, you can increase the tempo. If you feel comfortable at 70 beats per minute, you can raise it to 74 beats per minute. Make sure as you increase your speed that you stay focused on good technique.
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.
Links and Recommendations
You can find metronomes at music supply stores or order them online. One of my favorite brands is the Matrix MR500 Metronome. There are also metronome apps and free online metronomes you can use. 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 efficiency on piano. Metronome use will help them maintain a steady beat, control the speed of their playing, and they will be able to keep pace with other musicians when they play in a group.
Spend Some Time with Your Metronome
You can make huge improvements in your playing if you take the time to practice with a metronome. Just like learning an instrument, learning to use the metronome for piano playing takes some time, so be patient and keep at it.