How to Practice With a Metronome

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to practice with a metronome. The metronome is one of the most valuable tools for your practice. It is perhaps the most valuable tool other than the instrument you’re playing on. The metronome is something that should be on your piano whenever you practice, to check your work, and to work out passages.

How do you use a metronome to work through a section of a piece?

Let’s say you’re working on the famous Alla Turca movement of the famous Mozart Sonata in A major K.331 no. 11. You get to the F-sharp minor section that has some tricky finger work, and it isn’t gelling for you. Some people might think you should go through the whole piece with the metronome. There is value in doing that to check your tempo, and the consistency of speed throughout a movement. It’s important to make sure you’re not speeding up or slowing down. But what I’m going to show you today is how to use the metronome to be able to solidify a passage like this. So let’s say you aren’t happy with your playing in the F-sharp minor section. It’s not as even as you would like. What can you do about that?

Find a speed on your metronome at which you can play the trouble section evenly and beautifully.

Taking too large a section to do progressive metronome speeds can sometimes be counterproductive. If you work on smaller sections, and then string the sections together later, you might have more success. Not only that, but maybe there’s a section you can already play up to tempo, but the next section still needs improvement. It’s unnecessary to work all those metronome speeds on both passages.

There are metronome applications for your phone that allow you to simply tap in the tempo. That’s a real help. If you are using a traditional metronome, you just start tapping or clapping along with your music as you sing or play mentally, so you can match the speed on the metronome. Make sure that it’s a comfortable speed for you. The most important thing is finding a speed at which you can play it perfectly. Once you can play the passage absolutely perfectly, and repeatably, you’re ready to increase the speed. But make sure you find the speed at which you have absolute security first.

The first time you do this, you’re going to find it to be really difficult to play perfectly at any tempo.

Here’s the key: Spend the time on the front end. Play it perfectly even with comfort. If you find you can’t do that, slow the metronome down further until you find a tempo where you can. Make sure you can play without feeling you’re getting off from the metronome at all. Make sure it’s rock solid, steady, and repeatable. You should be able to get it at least three times in a row, perfectly. It should not only sound perfect, it should feel comfortable. Then once you have it at one speed, take the metronome up a notch.

Physical metronomes actually have one benefit that digital metronomes don’t have. On physical metronomes, each notch goes up multiple numbers instead of having every number. For example, 60, 63, 66, 69, 72, 76, 80, et cetera. Notice how the speeds progress from going up by three, to going up by four beats per minute. If you double the speed, 60 to 63, at 120, the next notch on the metronome is 126 which is double the slower speeds. It doesn’t just go up by three throughout the range of speeds on the metronome. So the progression of speeds on a metronome is calculated correctly. You don’t want to go from 69 to 70 to 71 because the increases in speed are infinitesimally small. But one notch on the metronome, or maybe two notches at most, provides just the right amount of challenge to speed up a passage. Once you can play it successfully and repeatably with comfort at one slow speed, go to the next notch on the metronome. So if you’re at 60, play the passage at 63. You may only have to play it once to feel that it’s perfect and keep going notch by notch. But anytime you have any issues where it doesn’t sound right or doesn’t feel comfortable, keep doing it at that metronome speed.

This is one of the greatest practice techniques for developing speed, fluency and evenness in your piano playing!

I recommend doing metronome speeds on a regular basis with anything in your music that isn’t up to a high standard. If you feel that there’s some passage work or any sections of your music that aren’t even, or aren’t reliable, find a speed at which you can play it perfectly, repeatably, and comfortably, and go through metronome speeds notch by notch. You can solve almost any technical problem this way. Try it out! Let me know how it works for you! You can leave comments here at LivingPianos.com or YouTube. Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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6 thoughts on “How to Practice With a Metronome”


 
 

  1. I inherited my mother’s metronome from way back when. You know, the kind that moves physically back and forth. But I have found I have a very different problem. Your video doesn’t touch on it, with all the good suggestions. I have an inherent sense of time. I can count seconds accurately without saying “one thousand one, one thousand two”. And I’m dead on. I find that when I try to use a metronome, something in my brain kicks in and it just goes haywire. I can’t do ANYTHING. I am totally freaked out. I can play perfectly evenly without it, it just happens. Unevenness in playing is not my problem. It’s more like dexterity or something. I can’t move my fingers in sequence fast enough to play many passages up to tempo. I have given this a lot of thought, but haven’t come up with an answer yet. But I’ll keep after it. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I have found over the years, I simply think differently from other people. I have learned to live with that, but explaining myself can be very frustrating.

    1. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right speed on the metronome. If you come upon the right speed on the metronome, with your excellent sense of timing, you should be able to play with it.

  2. Roland’s Piano Everyday app has an graphical depiction of an old fashion modem with the rhythm steps you describe. But, you need to have a Roland digital piano to make it work.

    1. There are a zillion metronome apps on iOS and Android. I’m sure there is one that has the speeds of traditional metronomes. If anyone can find what app has them, I’d love to know!

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