The purpose of a metronome is to provide a musical timer for beats and to keep you exactly in time and there are two basic types. The traditional and larger pyramid shaped mechanical metronome and more recently the electronic multifunction device which is highly portable and the usual choice of conductors.
Who invented the metronome?
The origin of the metronome is accreditied to Abbas ibn Firnas (810-887 AD) and was eventually patented by Johann Maelzel in 1815. This patent was stated as a tool for musicians, and labelled “Instrument/Machine for the Improvement of all Musical Performance, called Metronome”
A traditional mechanical metronome uses an escapement which is a toothed wheel to transfer power from a wound steel spring to a swinging pendulum. Each pendulum swing produces an audible click. The speed of the pendulum can be changed either by a dial or by moving a sliding weight on the pendulum itself to alter the tempo.
Which type of timing device for music should you have?
Some prefer to have both with the traditional metronome reserved for the home practice room and the electronic hand held device rattling around in the conductors case or gig bag. The dilemma is where to buy a metronome and which is the best as it’s not one of those purchases you tend to make everyday?
Here are 5 metronomes accross a range of prices, in both styles which all have a high customer satisfaction rating on Amazon:
The Cherub WSM-330 is a traditional mechanical metronome with a highly distinctive finish.
It has a top grade metal winding mechanism fitted with a bell to indicate the beats on the bar.
The available tempo settings range from 40 to 208 beats per minute and this metronome is accurate to within 1% tolerance.
Dimensions 10.1 x 6.2 x 24cms.
Available in Black, mauve, pink and blue
The Digiflex metronome is a traditional mechanical metronome with a similar finish to the previous Cherub WSM-330.
It has a metal winding mechanism – the click sound can be set to chime every 2, 4 6 or 8 beats
The tempo settings range from 40 to 208 beats per minute.
The dimensions are approx 10.4×11.8×20.5cm.
The Amazon average customer satisfaction rating is 4.3 out of 5.
Accurate Wittner mechanical movement and winder
Attractive ‘mock’ wallnut casing
Traditional Maelzel pyramid metronome fitted with non-slip rubber feet.
Dimensions – 22.6 x 13.8 x 13 cm
This is a ‘designer’ metronome and is considerably more expensive that the previous two in this review. If you want a traditional Mealzel look then this designer metronome is for you.
The Amazon customer rating is an average 4 out of 5 star which is very good but not as high as the other metronomes in this review.
This is a small and compact unit with a flip out rear stand.. The quartz timing is controlled by an easy to set front dial with a tempo range of 40 to 208 beats per minute in 39 steps.
The unit has two different tones available with tone generation of A4 = 440Hz Bb4=466.16Hz.
The metronome is powered by a 9v battery which is included.
There is a choice of internal speaker or headphone listening with an earphone jack..
Dimensions are 4.3 x 13 x 7.6 cm
The Amazon customer rating for this is extremely high with an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars
A compact and versatile metronome packed with multi-functional features. there are two tempo steps available – pendulum or full steps with a tap tempo function.
The unit is available in black and red or blue and black and has an earphone jack installed.
The metronome is powered by two AAA batteries which are included.
Dimensions 8.4 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
The Amazon customer satisfaction rating is an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars and is the cheapest metronome in this review.
Unless you have the ability to sight read fly paper it is best to drop the tempo of the piece you are trying to learn and then slowly ramp up the speed until you can play the passage of music at the desired speed.
I often go the extra mile and ramp it up to an even faster tempo than is marked and then throttle back. this way you can be in full control and not always at the edge of your tested limits.
I was sent an excellent by Jen Miller of Beginnerguitarhq.com. Although the article is for guitarists the first few sections are applicable to any instrument and really works works for brass bands. If you are struggling to get through a piece at the marked time try this out Read it here…
Which is the best metronome for you?
All five metronomes featured have high ratings with Amazon customers. They are all quality metronomes, with all the common metronome markings, features and it will come down to your own personal choice.
Based on value for money the Korg has many features and comes out at the most economic buy. In the traditional range the Cherub WSM-330 Classic is the best value for money.
It should be noted that the Wittner Designer Metronome looks great but it does appear that the price tag is for the brand and not for any additional extra features. – it is around triple the price of the Cherub WSM-330 Classic. On saying that if you like it then buy it!