How to Play with the Metronome

Piano Lessons / how to play piano / How to Play with the Metronome

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to play with a metronome. It can be a really daunting task, particularly if you’re not accustomed to playing with a metronome. The tips I’m going to give you today are not just for those of you who are new to the metronome, but also for those of you who practice with a metronome incessantly and wonder how to stay with the metronome.

How do you set a metronome?

There is some great software out there that can be helpful. You can get apps on your phone that allow you to just tap the tempo and it finds it for you, which can be incredibly valuable. But how do you even establish the tempo? Let’s say you’re playing a piece and you’re wondering how to set the metronome. Well, you can tap your foot along with the music to establish the beat. You have to establish the beat first. Then turn your metronome on and try to match it. Once it sounds right, try playing along to see if it feels right. If it feels too fast or slow, adjust the speed and try again until it feels right.

How do you stay with the metronome?

I’ve seen so many people struggle to stay with the metronome. I’m going to show you a very simple technique that’s going to make a world of difference. When the metronome speeds up, speed up with it. When the metronome slows down, slow down with it. Of course the metronome is consistent, but I bet when you’re playing with the metronome, you could swear that it’s speeding up and slowing down! In reality, it’s you who is changing speed. But it feels like the metronome is slowing down or speeding up sometimes, doesn’t it? All you have to do is follow whatever it seems to be doing. If it seems to be getting faster, you get faster. If it seems to be getting slower, you get slower. And if you do that, you will stay with the metronome.

If you continue to struggle you may want to adjust the speed.

When you’re playing with a metronome and you’re not absolutely precisely with it, make minute adjustments in your playing by going a little faster with it, or a little slower with it to get back on time. But if you ever gain or lose a beat, you should stop and figure out if maybe the metronome is set a little too fast for you. Try a slightly slower speed to see if you can stay with it, because you should never gain or lose a beat. However, if you just nuance slightly behind or ahead, you might just finish the phrase then go back and see if you can do it more faithfully on the beat. Practice a number of times until that ebb and flow around the beat is minimized. The goal, of course, is to stay spot on with the metronome. But you don’t necessarily have to stop every single time you’re slightly off. Instead, get used to adjusting. Follow whatever the metronome seems to be doing. That’s the answer for staying with the metronome!

Once again to recap, establish the speed by tapping your foot or tapping your hand and then finding that speed on your metronome. Or better yet, download an app where you can just tap in the tempo. From there you can adjust further to find exactly the right speed. As you’re playing, if it feels just too fast or slow to be able to play with, adjust the speed. But once you lock it in, whatever the metronome seems to do, that’s what you’re going to do. That’s how you’ll stay with the metronome. I encourage all of you to try this! If you’ve had problems with the metronome, try these techniques and see how they work for you. I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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2 thoughts on “How to Play with the Metronome”

  1. I have a Steinert piano my father purchased around 1932,fromSherman,Clay & Co. in Portland Oregon. I have some of the paperwork, aka known as bills and letters. He was about 25 years old.
    I don’t play, but I’m not going to get rid of it either. I haven’t taken as good care as he would have. How should I clean the top? It is pretty dirty (not pretty) and does not not shine. I had it tuned several years ago. I think that is how I got on your email list looking for a tuner.

  2. I really don’t know about that. My problem seems much more basic. If I turn on the metronome, I just get totally flustered, and my brain zones out! I get nervous, and I play downright erratically. I’ve never been able to do it or come anywhere close. Without it, I can stay steady as a rock, and if there is a place where I hesitate, I pick apart those few notes.

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