How to Practice Tempo Changes With the Metronome

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to practice with a metronome when there are ritards and other tempo changes in your music. But you want to practice with a metronome to make sure you’re playing well overall. How can you do that? Should you program a metronome? There are some metronomes that are very sophisticated. Or you can work with a digital audio workstation. You could program exactly the amount of speeding up and slowing down in the score. But that would take a lot of time. I have a much easier way to address this!

First, play along with the metronome without any tempo changes!

In the accompanying video, I demonstrate with a student piece by Cuthbert Harris called Graceful Dance. It has a little bit of a ritard just before the recapitulation, just before the return of the first theme. I want to discuss how you can deal with this with a metronome. If you are practicing with the metronome, you could play it first without the ritard at all. Because one of the most important things of any tempo changes in your music is to know how much you’re doing. If you never play it with the metronome, you won’t know how much ritard you’re doing. So first thing is to play it with the metronome with no ritard at all.

How could you possibly do a ritard with the metronome ticking?

The secret is to allow yourself to get off from the metronome. Then get back on the next measure in as elegant a way as you possibly can. It might not work out exactly the same each time. You may have to make little concessions. But that’s fine, because you get the benefit of being able to play through the piece with the metronome. In pieces that have a lot of little subtle changes of tempo, this technique can be invaluable! Because otherwise you can’t practice with the metronome at all.

The most important thing you can do when working on a piece that has tempo changes is to first play with no tempo changes.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students play with huge ritards. If you never check back with the metronome, you have no idea how much you’re changing the tempo. The metronome gives you an idea of the subtlety of your ritards and accelerandos, or if they’re becoming excessive. First play it right with the metronome. Then play with the tempo changes. Don’t worry about getting off from the metronome. Just get back on as soon as you can. You too can practice music that has tempo changes with the metronome in the manner I just described!

I hope this is helpful for you! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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2 thoughts on “How to Practice Tempo Changes With the Metronome”


    1. If the meter changes from 4/4 to 3/4, you can just let the metronome tick quarter notes. If you go from 4/4 to 3/8, you can have the eighth notes tick. If the meter changes are too often and varied, sometimes the only way to practice with the metronome is in sections. This is a good question!

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