Stefan Joubert manages the London Piano Institute, a premier destination for adult piano learners seeking individualised instruction and progress towards their musical goals. He believes anyone can learn to play regardless of age or ability!
The further you submerge into your musical journey, the more technique is required to keep your talent and effort crisp and clear.
Luckily the metronome has made a way for all piano players, guitarists and many more instrumentalists to achieve the perfection they want.
Background and History
What is a metronome?
It is none other than a device used by musicians that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular tick.
Metronomes date back to 1815 when Johann Maelzel created a wind-up metronome as a tool for musicians.
He took Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel’s first mechanical musical chronometer and added a scale which created the so-called metronome we know of today.
Since then, countless musicians have been using it to perfect their music. Only later have these metronomes been replaced with electronic and software ones.
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the many musicians from that time who used the metronome and metronome markings in his music. Professional musicians still use them today. Proof that no matter the skill level, practising with a metronome is important and beneficial to one’s expertise.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Using a metronome ensures rhythmic perfection
Almost every music piece has an indicated tempo that is required for it to be played.
Although we have tempo markings to help us, such as adagio which means slow – or Allegro which is fast and bright- there is another indicator added to the list… Metronome marks. It is indicated as “bpm” – stands for beats per minute – and indicates the exact speed for a piece.
The beat implies how many crotchets/quavers/ etc, have to be played per minute. Some composers and songwriters use a metronome mark as a suggestion to whoever plays their pieces, but to others, it is the standard. Thus those who take their metronome markings more seriously, want those who play the piece to play it with excellent rhythmic execution.
2. Using a metronome creates consistency
By matching every beat to every tick, over time you will master timing consistency. It will be easier for you to keep the same tempo throughout a piece, without using a metronome! You will subconsciously develop the musical part of your brain and grow your rhythm-keeping ability.
I can vouch for when I say how the metronome has helped me apply it to other areas as well!
Such as simply needing to keep a beat on a drum, or even the same speed consistency in other pieces. So not only will practising with a metronome keep your speed constant, it will also help grow consistency where a beat of any sort that needs to be kept, is required.
3. Using a metronome strengthens weaker muscles.
Some find it rather hard to practise at slower tempos and skip this vital part of learning.
The metronome helps bring down your tempo to specifically target notes that aren’t played fluently, precisely or equally.
It forces you to slow down and practise the whole piece to the same tempo, leaving no room for speeding through ‘easier’ parts of the piece.
Although it’s much easier to neglect parts you claim to play easily, it still requires a slow breakdown with the same tempo throughout.
Who knows, maybe it even fixes a gap in your foundation you did not know you had!
Practising your whole piece to the same tempo prevents inequality in speed which definitely stands out to the listener.
Gradually over time add speed to create a fluent performance.
How Do I Use It?
Although the device has many benefits, the main goal of a metronome is to match up your own tempo to the steady beat and tick. Yet how does one who has never used it before, use it?
Luckily it is quite simple. If you are practising a piece, match up the metronome speed to a slow enough speed you can keep throughout the whole piece. Then, gradually up the speed until the required tempo of the piece. This way you will prevent any gaps from forming and ensure effective fluency.
The same could be applied when one is practising scales and arpeggios.
These finger exercises could be considered the building blocks of piano learning. It reflects your skill and finger strength. Thus it is extremely important to play them as fluently and fast as possible.
Yet, they have to be played equally. So, using the same strategy that is used when practising pieces, start with the metronome being at a slow speed.
During this step, you have to keep an eye open for small errors that normally aren’t seen when played fast.
These errors can include notes not played equally, notes that are accidentally missed, a difference in sound ( such as some notes played harder than others) and so on.
Then, of course, gradually add speed as you perfect your scales and arpeggios. The ultimate key to success in your piano journey.
Where Do I Get It?
Since you now know the importance of practising with a metronome, it brings forth a new question that might bring concern.
Where do I get a metronome?
Fear not, for there are countless websites that sell metronomes you can buy with only the click of a button.
That could be considered a more old-fashioned way, but with our world becoming more and more technological, it opened a way for new possibilities.
Such as an online metronome!
You can download metronome apps on your mobile device giving you convenience at your fingertips.
No more worrying about bringing the metronome along with you when you have it on your phone!
Don’t want to download an app?
Google has you covered with a free-to-use metronome. Just google: “metronome”, and it will pop up in your browser where you can adjust it to your heart’s desires.
Surely now you cannot use any more excuses to practise effectively
Optimise your practice sessions with a much-needed metronome.
Every session brings you closer to your technique milestones.