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What Metronome Is Best For Piano

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Whether you’re a novice pianist or someone who’s more advanced, steady rhythm is everything. There’s a number of ways to achieve this through technique exercises and studying certain types of repertoire. At the end of the day the most helpful tool to achieve a solid rhythmic pulse is by using a metronome. Metronomes have really evolved over the years and come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re wondering what metronome is best for piano then read on!

Here is a complete list of the best metronomes for piano.

  • Donner DPM-1 Wooden Metronome
  • Seiko SQ50-V
  • Korg Tuner & Metronome
  • Matrix Quartz Metronome
  • Boss DB-90 Metronome
  • Tempi Mechanical Metronome
What Metronome Is Best For Piano

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What Are The Different Types Of Metronomes

That’s quite the list of metronomes right? Each of them is different though. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different methods of operation too. As a pianist you could certainly use any one that you want, but it might help to know how each type is designed so you know if it’s right for you.

Mechanical Metronomes – These used to be really big in size back in the day, but over the years they’ve come in a more compact form. I consider this to be the most traditional type of metronome out there. Most of them have a wooden design that’s wide at the bottom and narrows to the top.

In order to function, mechanical metronomes rely on the transfer of weight. This weight is on the opposite side of the pendulum wand located in the center. As you move the weight the tempo will either increase or decrease. The higher the weight the slower the tempo and visa versa.

Some mechanical metronomes will even have weight on both ends but essentially works the same. On the inside of the metronomes hollow body is a mechanism that produces a click sound as the pendulum swings.

When you’re ready to use it just turn the wind-up key and release the pendulum. These metronomes have clearly marked tempo numbers and terms so you know exactly where to adjust the weight to for whatever piece is being worked on.

These metronomes are really ideal if you don’t want to worry about batteries especially. They are however quite fragile and a drop could damage and throw off the calibration of tempos.

Digital Metronomes – The quartz metronome is a basic electric device. These metronomes utilize a quartz crystal which is installed inside. The purpose of it is to maintain counting accuracy as you switch between tempos. It works much like a quartz watch so that you’re time remains consistent.

The most common design you’ll find uses a dial mechanism. There are BPM numbers and tempo markings located around the dial. This allows pianists to quickly switch between tempos on the fly; much quicker than you could with a basic mechanical metronome.

A neat feature on some quartz metronomes like the is pitch tuning. They have a tuner installed which gives you the standard A440. This isn’t too useful for pianists unless you’re tuning it yourself or are a technician. As a guitarist or wind instrument player it’s a combination of everything in one and totally worth it.

Some electronic metronomes also allow you to change between meters and even do more complex rhythms with varying sound effects. In-ear listening is also a nice addition to quartz metronomes. For example, the Seiko SQ50-V has a built-in 3.5mm headphone port. This helps you keep tempo when practicing in a loud environment or when working on recording projects.

In addition to quartz metronomes there’s several thin and compact digital metronomes like the Korg Tuner & Metronome. Some are small enough to fit into your pocket while others are actually designed to clip onto your piano music stand.

Digital metronomes are almost always battery operated although some are rechargeable. There’s a ton of benefits that digital metronomes can offer. Things like choosing specific tempos, tuning features, beats and subdivisions as well as tone controls.

App Based Metronomes – Lastly we have app based metronomes, something that I highly recommend pianists use over the other options. Not to say that mechanical and digital metronomes aren’t good, but app based metronomes really convenient.

When you think about it, most of us have smartphones and tablets in our hands at all times right? Surely there’s an app for everything and metronomes are different. I’ve used a couple and they all have their pros and cons.

Anything you can find on a digital metronome you’ll find on an app based metronome. Changing beats, choosing between various types of instruments, laser targeted tempo markings and of course in-ear listening. My favorite feature with the app versions is the ability to use gradual tempo changes. It’s helpful when practicing and allows you to work on your speed without needing to stop and turn the dial or reset the pendulum.

An example of this is when you set the app to start at 35 BPM and then after every 8 measures increase 5 BPM until it reaches a certain level. The one downside of course is that these apps tend to use a lot of battery, so definitely bring your phone charger to the practice room with you.

Why Pianists Should Not Use Mechanical Metronomes

While each metronome style works well for music study, as a pianist I think it’s important to use digital and app based metronomes. Something like the Korg Tuner & Metronome would be perfect for any pianist. The accuracy of mechanical metronomes is sometimes suspect; especially as they get bumped around or aren’t sitting on an even surface.

Digital metronomes come in really compact sizes too; you can stick them in your pocket and take them to any practice location with ease. My other issue with quartz and mechanical metronomes is difficulty in getting a specific tempo marking.

If you’ve ever used a mechanical metronome then you’ve probably noticed how wide the tempo ranges can be. If there’s a piece you want to practice at 137 BPM you can certainly do that on a digital; a mechanical might limit you to 135 BPM. Having the exact BPM can be really crucial in more advanced repertoire.

My other big reason for using digital metronomes is the ability to split the bars and place accents exactly where you want to. They feature beep noises in addition to various custom click sounds on more advanced models. I use this feature a lot when I have 3 against 4 rhythms, or if I wanted to hear the subdivisions in passagework.

A Deep Dive Into The Best Metronomes For Piano Players

With all of the information you now know about metronomes and my preferences, it’s time to get a detailed look at each of these models. I’ll break down the highs and lows of each and how you as a pianist can benefit from using it. Let’s start off with the Donner DPM-1

Donner DPM-1 Wooden Metronome

I’ve made my case for not using mechanical metronomes, but the Donner DPM-1 is the exception. It covers a beat range of 40 – 208 BPM. The beat selections cover anywhere from 0 to 6, so you’ll be able to shift meter as needed. It’ll take some working but it’s a nice feature to have!

The metronome has a normal click sound, but also a bell sound too. You can position the bell in 5 different locations which allows you to place accents and move the downbeat anywhere you need to. There’s no battery required, you just wind it up.

Overall this metronome is really accurate with a tolerance of just 1%. As long as it’s on a flat surface like your piano or table it should be fine. It’s also well built with a wooden frame and high quality copper parts. You can’t really control the volume of it, but it’s loud enough to stick out even in fortissimo sections in your repertoire.

Seiko SQ50-V

The Seiko SQ50-V is one of my favorite quartz metronomes. It’s simple to operate and does the job well. It’s really compact in size, so you can toss it in a bag or even your back pocket. There’s even a handy stand attached to the back so you can set it up on all types of surfaces. It utilizes the traditional dial operate to choose your desired tempo.

This model allows you a choice of 2 different tempos and sounds. You can even turn the sound off and just watch the flashing light and keep tempo that way. Unlike mechanical metronomes there are options for volume control too!

Korg Tuner & Metronome

I mentioned this Korg tuner earlier, but this is an absolute favorite of mine. It has everything you could want in a digital metronome. It’s got a built-in tuner, beat placement, meter changer and much more. Unlike some of the quartz metronomes you can set it to ultra specific tempo markings.

Overall you can choose between 16 different beat variations. The display is large and easy to read too. Just a note about the tuner as it allows you to tune to any Hz setting you want; not just A440. The tempo range is also the largest on this list from 30 – 252 BPM and allows for incremental changes! This metronome is thin, compact and perfect when you need to get around.

Matrix Quartz Metronome

If there’s one quartz metronome that got me through college it was the Matrix metronome. This is a high quality device that runs off a 9 volt battery. It covers the range of 40 – 208 BPM which is what most pianists will need.

There’s also a tone generator installed for tuning purposes although it’s not that great of a feature. I like that the LED is synced with the beat so you can use it with or without the volume on.

My biggest enjoyment is the build quality. I can remember dropping this metronome so many times traveling between practice rooms and around campus, but it never failed me. It doesn’t have syncopated rhythm features or any of the fancy stuff, but it’s a darn good metronome!

Boss DB-90 Metronome

The Boss DB-90 is a personal favorite of mine as I used it for marching band practices. It’s a little bit big for a digital metronome, but the versatility of the device is undeniable. Because of it’s size it runs on a 9 volt battery, and yes rechargeable ones are just fine.

I like how simple it is to operate the metronome. All of the buttons are well labeled so you know exactly what each function does. I do admit there’s a ton of buttons on it so it’s a little much for a pianist, but nonetheless there’s really nothing the DB-90 can’t do. The left side features individual volume controls. This allows you to have louder or softer accents, clicks, hi-hats and other samples at the exact balance you want.

The coolest feature is the ability to loop certain patterns and combinations over and over. That helps if you have a piece of music that shifts between time signatures or has displacement. The lowest tempo is 30 BPM and the highest is 250 BPM.

Unlike some other metronomes this one has human voice counting so you don’t have to say it yourself. Sure it’s a little robotic but it fulfills it’s purpose. The memory feature is also really useful and really helps when trying to line up your practice sequences. You can save up to 50 different sequences.

Tempi Mechanical Metronome

The Tempi mechanical metronome is a worthy option when it comes to the traditional methods of rhythm practice. This model is well built and has all of the standard features. The winding-key lasts up to 18 minutes when it’s fully turned which is great for those rigorous practice sessions.

I think the accuracy of this model is definitely something to be happy with. Even at blistering tempos it doesn’t seem to fail so you can be confident you’re practicing at the correct pace.

Many pendulums tick heavier on one side than the other, but the Tempi seems to give you a solid “tick-tick” no matter which side it starts from. You can also set the beat between 2, 3, 4 and 6. If the bell sound seems to be getting in the way you can always set the beat selector to 0 so you’re left with just a clicking noise.

Choosing The Right Metronome For You

Choosing the perfect metronome for you is not an exact science. We all have different needs at piano players and we’re all at different levels of study. If you’re a beginner I think it’s totally fine to go with a mechanical metronome. You won’t need some of the fancy beat subdivision features right away; especially if you’re learning quarter notes and half notes at first.

Once you find yourself at an intermediate level and are exploring eighth and sixteenth notes then I would definitely upgrade. A quartz metronome in my opinion is not going to do too much more for you other than give you a more solid rhythm. You can certainly make the leap from a mechanical to an advanced digital metronome when the time comes.

The Boss DB-90 is a great metronome for the really advanced pianist. This is a metronome for someone doing really advanced repertoire that is throwing all the works at you. If you’re working on something like Prokofiev Sonata 7 or even some Impressionism period works you’ll want to have access to those accent features.

No matter which metronome you go with the overall pricing of them is on the low side. It’s not a huge investment financially, but as far as your training goes it’s a crucial investment. Metronomes can help you internalize good, solid rhythms. The more you use them the more you’ll notice how you can jump into tempos freehand because it’s so internalized.

Outside of private practice, metronomes are a big help when it comes to collaborative music. A piano quartet can certainly benefit from metronome use to keep the entire group together. Group piano lessons also benefit by using these so that everyone is on the same page. We all have different internal pulses, so having that audible presence helps make for an efficient rehearsal.

if you’re still not sure which metronome to choose here’s a quick checklist you can do. Depending on what you check off it’ll help determine which stage of learning you’re at.

1. What level am I? 

If you’re a beginner go with a basic mechanical metronome. If you’re not ready for an advanced metronome upgrade to a quartz.

2. How much do I want to invest?

Metronomes in general are low investments. The more advanced you go and the more advanced features a metronome has, the more it’ll cost. A good middle of the pack metronome is the Korg Metronome and tuner.

3. Determine how much you’ll use it

Not everyone has rhythmic counting issues, but in a group setting metronomes are really helpful. If you plan to do a lot of group collaborations then it’s an absolute must.

4. Think about convenience

Mechanical metronomes are ideal when you have plenty of space to place one. If you’re traveling around a college campus though it’s really not ideal to bring something that large with you. Besides they are generally considered to be fragile and dropping one of these could be catastrophic. Go with something that’s compact if you can.

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