The piano is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world. It’s also incredibly versatile and can be used to play everything from a jaunty pop tune to a haunting piece of classical music and everything in between.
Table of Contents
- Why Are Metronomes Important For Piano Playing?
- What Is A Piano Metronome?
- Why Use A Metronome For Piano?
- How To Use A Metronome For Piano
- Steinway & Sons Sponsored Metronome Video
Why Are Metronomes Important For Piano Playing?
The problem with the piano, however, is that when it is played badly, it can sound absolutely terrible. Even though you might be hitting all the right notes, timing is essential and when your timing is out, it can mess up the entire piece of music.
Of course, practice makes perfect and with time, you will be able to judge speed and pace perfectly. However, this can take years to master so when you’re practicing, you need tools to help you along the way. And that’s where the piano metronome comes in.
These devices are invaluable for budding pianists and professionals alike. But if you’ve never used one before, it can feel a little daunting. But don’t worry, in this guide, I’ll introduce you to the piano metronome, why you need it, and exactly how to use it.
What Is A Piano Metronome?
A piano metronome is a device that pianists use to keep in time and to a beat. These devices were invented back in the 19th century and are used to ensure that you keep to the right pace throughout the piece of music.
While the traditional metronome was an analog device, there are several types to choose from for the modern musician.
Analog metronomes feature a pendulum which moves from side to side to help you keep time. However, you might opt for an electronic metronome which kind of resembles a small radio. These are brilliantly versatile as many of them also double up as a piano tuner.
Finally, there are digital metronomes which are the most recent type and come in the form of a smartphone or tablet app. They’re incredibly easy to come across and simple to use. Plus many of them are heavily customizable and you can even pick up a free one on the App Store so you don’t even have to spend any money! Another benefit of this type is that you can carry it wherever you go without having to take additional equipment.
Why Use A Metronome For Piano?
You’ve likely already spent a fortune buying tons of equipment to complement your piano so you’re probably asking yourself if you really need a metronome after all. But the truth is that these simple devices can be of huge benefit to a musician looking to perfect their skills.
For starters, using a metronome will help to improve your natural sense of timing. It’ll help you to naturally fit into the pace of the piece without even trying because let’s be honest, we’ve all gone a little too fast or too slow at times and wondered why the piece doesn’t sound quite as it should. Combined with this new natural sense of pace, you’ll find that your sight reading skills start to improve.
On top of this, using a metronome gives you a new way to track your progress. If you keep a practice diary, and I’d recommend that you do, you can enter any increases in tempo as you’re working on a piece of music, note down how you’ve set the metronome, and any challenges you’re facing.
If you are playing as part of a duo or group then it’s vital that everyone stays in time with one another. While you could rely on your own natural senses, having a metronome makes things a whole lot easier!
How To Use A Metronome For Piano
Looking at a metronome, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a relatively simple device. The theory of it is but in practice, they can be a little tricky to use. But once you’re familiar with your device, it’ll become second nature. Here are some of our top tips on getting started.
- Before you do anything, you’ll need to find the time signature of the music. This is typically printed at the beginning of each line of music and is displayed as two numbers, one over the top of the other.
- The most common time signature is 4/4. In any case, the bottom number refers to the whole beat while the top number tells you how many beats are in one measure.
- Next, you will need to set your tempo. This is measured in beats per minute and is not the same as the time signature. Some pieces will be much faster than others.
- When you’re working on a more complicated piece of music, it’s always a good idea to slow the tempo down until you are comfortable playing it. Where there are lots of quick notes in succession, it can often be difficult to achieve this at speed if you’re playing the piece for the first time, no matter how experienced you are. As you get more familiar with the music, you can start to increase the tempo.
- Digital and electronic metronomes come with the option to adjust the volume. You’ll need to have this louder to begin with so you can be sure that you’re keeping in time. Once you become comfortable with the pace of the piece, you can turn the metronome volume down.
- Don’t try to rush a piece of music. It’s essential to take baby steps. When you first start using a metronome, you may find it to be distracting but stick with it because it will benefit you in the end. Just practice for a few minutes each time and don’t forget to work your way up to faster paces.
Steinway & Sons Sponsored Metronome Video
Renowned pianist Graham Fitch demonstrates the proper way to use the metronome with the piano at Steinway Hall, London:
A piano metronome is a device used to help the player keep time. They’re ideal practice tools and will help you to develop a more natural sense of timing which will also improve other areas of your playing.
These devices come in analog, digital, and electronic forms and while they can take a little getting used to, will soon become part of your regular practice.