How to use a metronome



Chances are you’ve heard of a metronome, but do you know just how essential it is?

One thing that slows down a lot of people when learning music is timing. We have to remember that timing is what connects us to the music when we’re listening. So when playing music it’s our job to hold it down. It makes things predictable enough so that the listener can follow the music and ultimately disappear into it, be moved by it and even changed by it.


[Tweet "We have to remember that timing is what connects us to the music when we’re listening."]

You also need steady rhythm when playing with others or recording on top of other instruments. This makes the metronome your friend. Check out these two great tunes featuring a metronome like tapping as an “instrument” in the song. Cracker – I Can’t Forget You and The Beatles – Blackbird

…and what great lyrics and guitar work.

Types of metronomes

images-1It used to be that you had to have an analog metronome that used a weighted pendulum that would rock back and forth. Using the force of gravity to keep the time. Like the one pictured here:






Then with the electronic age companies started making and selling battery powered ones like these.

They had new features and were compact enough to drop into your gig bag pocket. Now with the Internet and the computer age there are metronomes online for free like these:

Or you can purchase apps with tons of features that you used to have to pay a lot more for in a physical metronome.


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Physical metronomes:

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My personal favorite is a smart phone app called “Tempo” – Although I haven’t tried out many other apps. This one has been reliable and has more than enough features for me.




At it’s most basic form a metronome is a steady click of some sort. Counted in how many times it clicks within a minute. This is called beats per minute (BPM). As you can imagine the range is quite large. As a reference point 60 bpm would be the ticking of the seconds as they go by on a clock. 120bpm would be two clicks per second. Here’s a list of tempos and their names. Andante/Andante Moderato is a good steady comfortable tempo for most people. We use 90bpm for most of the Rock Prodigy lessons. 130-160 is a good dance tempo.

[Tweet "The steady click is counted in the number of clicks within a minute or beats per minute (BPM)."]

From slowest to fastest:

▪               Larghissimo – very, very slow (19 BPM and under)

▪               Grave – slow and solemn (20–40 BPM)

▪               Lento – slowly (40–45 BPM)

▪               Largo – broadly (45–50 BPM)

▪               Larghetto – rather broadly (50–55 BPM)

▪               Adagio – slow and stately (literally, “at ease”) (55–65 BPM)

▪               Adagietto – rather slow (65–69 BPM)

▪               Andantino – slightly slower than andante (although in some cases it can be taken to mean slightly faster than andante) (78–83 BPM)

▪               Andante – at a walking pace (84–90 BPM) (this is about the heart rate at an average walking speed thus the tempo of 84-90 BPM for andante)

▪               Andante moderato – between andante and moderato (thus the name andante moderato) (90–100 BPM)

▪               Marcia moderato – moderately, in the manner of a march[4][5] (83–85 BPM)

▪               Moderato – moderately (100–112 BPM)

▪               Allegro Moderato – moderately fast (112-116)

▪               Allegretto – close to but not quite allegro (116–120 BPM)

▪               Allegro – fast, quickly, and bright (120–160 BPM) (molto allegro is in the allegro range)

▪               Vivace – lively and fast (132–140 BPM)

▪               Vivacissimo – very fast and lively (140–150 BPM)

▪               Allegrissimo (or Allegro Vivace) – very fast (168–177 BPM)

▪               Presto – extremely fast (180–200 BPM)

▪               Prestissimo – even faster than Presto (200 BPM and over)



Next it helps to have some sort of accent in you metronome. This is because music has a meter. The most common one is 4/4. Meaning it’s counted in four 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.


Then there is 3/4 time. Which is counted as 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.

In essence you either have an even number (binary or 2s) or odd number (ternary or 3s) and then it is grouped from there to create different meters. The metronome would accent the one or every other note or every three notes.

2/2, 2/4, 4/4, 6/4 are all two feels

3/4, 3/8, 6/8 (two groups of three), 9/8 (three groups of three), 12/8 (four groups of three) are all three feels.

…then you have meters that mix 2s and 3s like 5/4 or ⅝, ⅞, 11/8, 15/16. A meter in five might be felt as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Or 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 or the opposite. 1, 2, 1, 2, 3. Seven is the same idea. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3 or 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3 and so on with 11 (1&2&3&4&123) or 15 (1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&) or any other number you can come up with.

Rhythmic Subdivisions

It also helps to have an option that will give you some of the essential divisions of the beat. Like 8th notes, 8th note triplets, 16th notes, a shuffle (the 1st and last note of a triplet), or different 16th note rhythms. The rhythmic subdivisions are great for getting used to playing 16th notes, 8th notes, triplets and more. These are more common with the more expensive battery powered ones metronomes for drummers, but thankfully they are common on the newer apps for your computer or smart phone.

Ways to use a metronome


[Tweet "...we use a metronome to develop solid timing. Match the note with the click to master anything."]

First and foremost we use a metronome to develop solid timing. You want to match the note with the click. Whatever it is that you are working on. Using a metronome will help you master it. It will help you to lock in the timing. You may start off by playing the part out of time to get used to the fingering and the notes, but once you start to get comfortable with it don’t forget to practice it in time.

In addition to using the metronome to learn the parts of songs it’s valuable to practice rhythms, reading, chord changes, scales and sequences independently of one another. This will make learning other music or making up your own music much easier and pain free. Especially since songs use a combination of these elements. Also, it’s good to look for patterns in your playing both good and bad. If you have an easy time picking up the rhythm but a hard time switching chords then you may want to practice your chords more and give yourself a pat on the back for your killer rhythm and vice versa.

Remember practice is only valuable if you spend it focused on improvement and definitely have fun with it and always stay loose and relaxed. For example you can record yourself playing to the metronome and then listen back to see if you are ahead of the beat or behind it or inconsistent. Then try it again with the intent to make the proper adjustment.

Here is and example of on the beat:

Here is and example of ahead of the beat:

Here is and example of behind the beat:

This is also a good time to use the rhythmic subdivisions. Let’s say you are playing a rhythm that is mostly quarter notes. Then you can have the metronome play 8th notes to fill in the time and help you stay steady. Another way of doing this would be to double the tempo of the metronome. Let’s say you are at 100bpm. Then putting the metronome at 200bpm would be equal to 8th notes. You can also do the opposite. If you are practicing a quarter note rhythm at 100bpm then try putting the metronome at 50bpm. This would put the metronome at half notes to your quarter note. It also puts more of the timing responsibility on you. If you are feeling daring you can even go further and make the metronome only click on the “1” which is whole notes while you play a quarter note (or any other rhythm). An example of this would be if your quarter note bpm is 120 then the whole note pulse is 30bpm. Fractions galore!

Another way to use a metronome is to build speed. Start with a comfortable tempo and after every 4-8 repetitions increase the tempo 3-5 bpm. Eventually you will hit your limit. Spend most of your time in the “comfort zone” so that you can develop a nice relaxed economic technique. Spending a small portion of the time pushing your limits so that you will also grow.

Ok, one more thing. Shifting the accent. This will simulate a more musical or drum like feel. Putting the accent on beat three instead of one is great. It will force you to feel the measure differently and will challenge you to hold down the time even more. At first this might be tricky. You are shifting the accent from being on the “1” to beat “3”. Essentially you are now starting on what used to be beat “3”. With a little practice it will become a piece of cake and will make playing with a metronome more fun. If you have a metronome that can accent more than one beat then having it accent beats 2 and 4 is essential!

This leads us to the drum machine (or a friend on drums) this is a great substitute for a metronome but make sure the feel is appropriate for what you are practicing.

A blues beat will have a triplet/shuffle feel.

A rock beat will have a straight 8ths feel.

A funk or hip hop/R&B beat will have a swung 16th notes feel like this beat boxing beat

A jazz beat will also have a swing feel.

This country beat also has a swung 16ths feel.

Let’s talk about swing now that it has come up. Swing can really “loosen” up the music. Swing is when you play your up beat a little late.

Here is the down beat:

Here is the up beat:

In the case of 8th notes. The “&” is played a little late.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &


In the case of 16th notes the “e” and the “a” are played a little late and the 8th note “&” is even with the down beat. Like this:

1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a


Have fun playing!


Mike Georgia

© 2016 Rock Prodigy, Music Prodigy