Our main reason for developing our app Metronome Beats was to help musicians improve their music playing (although we have now found several other uses including for golf, exercise, and dancing practice!). This post covers the benefits to musicians of using a metronome, and gives some examples of practice exercises which you can do.
Why use a metronome?
Metronome Beats produces a steady beat to help you play rhythms accurately and improve your sense of timing. You can use the metronome to help you keep to a particular tempo while practicing, and also to help you learn the rhythm of difficult passages. Improving your timing will have great benefits to your overall musical ability.
Key to using a metronome properly is understanding time signatures and beat subdivisions. I have covered this in a separate post which you can find here.
Below are some exercises which you can do with a metronome. They are built around the principles that when practicing timing you should start slow and increase the tempo in small increments only when you are comfortable playing at a certain speed consistently and accurately.
Improving your overall sense of timing
Start with the metronome at a fairly slow tempo (around 60BPM), with one pulse per beat (i.e. no beat subdivisions). Set the metronome going, listen to it and then play along. Try to play exactly in time with the metronome so that you can’t hear the metronome sound.
Increase the BPM slightly and repeat the exercise. Always listen to the beat before you start to play and try to come in right with the beat. Don’t move to a faster tempo until you can do this well and in a controlled manner. If you have problems at a particular speed, slow the tempo down a bit.
Once you have mastered your playing with one note per beat, try playing two notes to every beat. Once again, start slow and if you are having difficulty lower the tempo a bit. You can try this with a variety of different note combinations – for example, four notes to every beat, or three notes to every two. Identify rhythm patterns in pieces of music that you play regularly and try to practice these with the metronome. You can use Metronome Beats to help with playing different rhythms as it will allow you to put in different beat subdivisions (i.e. 2 notes per beat etc).
Improving your general technical ability
Once you have practiced different rhythm patterns you can also use the metronome exercises to practice other techniques. For example, carry out the previous exercises as loud as you can, then as softly as you can. Once you have mastered this, try to develop three distinct volumes, and then six.
When undertaking technical work try to use a metronome as much as possible. For example, try practicing your scales whilst keeping a consistent tempo. Keep a note the highest speeds that you reach day to day so that you can track your progress.
Once you have practised using the metronome for technical exercises, you can start to use it for practising your musical pieces. Start by noting the tempo/time signature of a piece of music and start the metronome at these settings. Try playing along to the beats of the metronome for a few minutes.
Now try playing through the piece of music with the metronome playing in the background. Check at the beginning of each bar that you are still in time with the music. If this is difficult, and you are not playing at a consistent tempo slow down the speed at which you are playing until you can play the piece comfortably. Once you have done this start to increase the tempo back up to speed. If there are particular difficult passages start by playing these at 50% of their normal speed. Once you are comfortable with this increase the tempo in small increments.
We have designed Metronome Beats with these types of practice exercises in mind and have therefore included buttons to easily change the tempo in small increments. You can also change the tempo to a % of the original with one touch of a button.