Friday, July 14, 2006

What kind of metronome to use?

On the subject of metronomes, which is better: the old fashioned Seth Thomas wind up kind or the new electronic battery powered ones?

If given that kind of choice I almost always instinctively go for the old fashioned tried and true version. Not this time, however.

While the old Seth Thomas rigs have their charm and aesthetic appeal (and symbolic significance) I'm going to suggest using the electronic metronome.

For one thing, they have a feature that you don't find on the old wind-ups. They give you a special tone on the first beat of the measure. With the wind up metronomes it's possible (sometimes easy) to lose a single beat while playing a difficult piece at a rapid tempo. Much better to know when the beginning of each measure is. You can even set most metronomes to exotic time signatures such as 5/4 so you can practice to Paul Desmond's "Take Five." The feature can always be disabled if you want.

I remember doing scales and Hanon exercises to a metronome when I swore the metronome was either speeding up or slowing down. That became a standing joke for me as I believe that 99% of the time it was me who was speeding up and slowing down. But sometimes a wind up metronome can be at fault. I had mine checked and found that the time it took for the pendulum to swing to the right was just a little different than the time it took to swing left.

Bad metronome.

So unless you're going somewhere for a very long time where they don't have batteries, I suggest using the electronic units. Not only can they be much smaller than the wind up counterparts, but they are more durable, less susceptible to shock. And you can use them with headphones.

I even have a metronome that doubles as a guitar tuner so I don't have anything EXTRA to carry around with me.



  1. A few years ago I played tuba in a German band. The director liked to start the polkas with just the tuba setting the tempo by playing the first and third beats. I purchased a metronome that has a toggle-type switch on it. One way it clicks off the beat and the other way it just has a little red light that flashes the beat with no sound at all. The light is what I used for getting the band going at the correct tempo. I don't know that it's proper to mention brand names here so will just say that it cost in the neighborhood of $30. The battery is a 9 volt and lasts a long time. Of course, as I mentioned in commenting on Robert's blog the other day, it did gather a lot of dust so maybe the battery hasn't been put to the real test. Now, with Robert's suggestions, I'll get a chance to really check out how long the battery will last.
    Bill Little

  2. Nice user-friendly blog page.

  3. You can use brand names here as far as I'm concerned as long as no one uses this forum to sell things or there is no libel involved.

    One of my portable battery metronomes has a display of a dozen or more LEDs that give a kind of visual representation of the pendulum of a wind up model. Yes, it's helpful.

  4. The metronome I was writing about was a Wittner MT-50. It's about the size of a deck of cards.
    Bill Little

  5. I used to have an electronic dial-able metronome that plugged into a wall socket. it saved batteries, as I never needed to take it anywhere.

    I can't seem to find a similar kind anywhere..every search results in battery type only.

    Any clues?

  6. I haven't seen the kind you describe in a long long time. However it's possible that some of the battery style metronomes might be compatible with an AC adapter.

    I assume you've checked the supply catalogs in music stores and consumer catalogs such as Musican's Friend.

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