Quick Start Guide
- Set a tempo. Tempo is measured in BPM (beats per minute), and you have the choice of four ways to set it:
- Type a number into the box in the top right corner (overwriting the default value of 120), then press Enter on your keyboard.
- Click the up/down arrows on the spinner.
- Drag the knob of the vertical slider on the right.
- Tap the tempo by clicking a few times in the “Tap Tempo Here” area.
- Set the number of beats per measure by dragging the slider.
- Start the metronome by pressing the big button labeled START. By the same button you can stop and restart the metronome as many times as you want.
What is a metronome?
A metronome is a practice tool that produces a regulated pulse to help you play rhythms accurately. The frequency of the pulses is measured in beats per minute (BPM).
Diligent musicians use a metronome to maintain an established tempo while practicing, and as an aid to learning difficult passages.
In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for “time”) is the speed or pace of a given piece. The tempo is typically written at the start of a piece of music, and in modern music it is usually indicated in beats per minute (BPM).
Whether a music piece has a mathematical time indication or not, in classical music it is customary to describe the tempo of a piece by one or more words, which also convey moods. Most of these words are Italian, a result of the fact that many of the most important composers of the 17th century were Italian, and this period was when tempo indications were used extensively for the first time. You can search for these foreign terms in our music glossary.
Traditionally, metronomes display some of the most common Italian tempo markings (“Adagio”, “Allegro”, etc.) alongside the BPM slider, but the correspondence of words to numbers can by no means be regarded as precise for every piece. The tempo of a piece will depend on the actual rhythms in the music itself, as well as the performer and the style of the music. If a musical passage does not make sense, the tempo might be too slow. On the other hand, if the fastest notes of a work are impossible to play well, the tempo is probably too fast.
Time signatures explained
A true understanding of time signatures is crucial towards a correct use of the metronome. Time signatures are found at the beginning of a musical piece, after the clef and the key signature. They consist of two numbers:
- the upper number indicates how many beats there are in a measure;
- the lower number indicates the note value which represents one beat: “2” stands for the half note, “4” for the quarter note, “8” for the eighth note and so on.
You should beware, however, that this interpretation is only correct when handling simple time signatures. Time signatures actually come in two flavors: simple and compound.
- In simple time signatures, each beat is divided into two equal parts. The most common simple time signatures are 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 (often indicated with a “C” simbol) and 2/2 (often indicated with a “cut C” simbol).
- In compound time signatures, each beat is divided into three equal parts. Compound time signatures are distinguished by an upper number which is commonly 6, 9 or 12. The most common lower number in a compound time signature is 8.
Unlike simple time, compound time uses a dotted note for the beat unit. To identify which type of note represents one beat, you have to multiply the note value represented by the lower number by three. So, if the lower number is 8 the beat unit must be the dotted quarter note, since it is three times an eighth note. The number of beats per measure can instead be determined by dividing the upper number by three.
To sum up, here are some common examples.
|Time||Type||Beats per measure|
|2/2||simple||2 half notes per measure|
|3/2||simple||3 half notes per measure|
|2/4||simple||2 quarter notes per measure|
|3/4||simple||3 quarter notes per measure|
|4/4||simple||4 quarter notes per measure|
|5/4||simple||5 quarter notes per measure|
|6/4||compound||2 dotted half notes per measure|
|3/8||simple||3 eight notes per measure|
|4/8||simple||4 eight notes per measure|
|6/8||compound||2 dotted quarter notes per measure|
|9/8||compound||3 dotted quarter notes per measure|
|12/8||compound||4 dotted quarter notes per measure|
How to practice difficult passages
Sometimes, most of a piece is easy to play except for a few measures. When faced with a challenging passage, practice the problem area at a slow tempo that allows you to play without mistakes: your first goal is to achieve one correct playing of all the notes.
This is very important. Because of muscle memory, you can practice mistakes over and over and learn them just as well as the notes you are supposed to be playing. So during the process of achieving that one correct run through, every mistake must be pounced on.
When you see you can play the passage without mistakes, you can add some BPM and try the passage at the faster tempo. If you can execute the passage 5 times in a row without any mistakes, you can add some BPM again. Repeat this process until you reach the target tempo!
Once you've developed a feel for the right tempo, try turning off the metronome. Your final goal is to play the piece with the pulse in your memory.
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