How to Practice with a Metronome

Tips and tricks to learing more quickly.

tips for practicing with a metronome
written by andrew swinney

By: Andrew Swinney

Practicing with a Metronome

When you practice with a metronome, you build a stronger internal beat (sense of time). A strong sense of time will allow you to perform better with others and perform rhythms more accurately. Here are some steps to follow when practicing with a metronome.

How to use a Metronome

  1. Isolate the problem measures (no more that 20 measures at a time).
  2. Find the tempo where you can play these measures perfectly. This might be much slower than performance speed and that is okay!
  3. Once you have played through your practice passage 3 times perfectly, then increase the tempo by 4 bpm (beats per minute).
  4. Repeat step three, gradually increasing the tempo. If you make a mistake, slow the tempo back down by 2 bpm.
  5. Once you have reached the performance tempo, turn the metronome off.
  6. Play through the passage without the metronome.
  7. Turn the metronome back on. Did you manage to maintain the tempo?

Always write down the tempo you end a practice session your practice journal or on the piece of music (in pencil). Doing this will let you know what tempo to start with on your next practice session. Remember the “3 times perfectly” rule. You might feel a rush to speed up your tempo, but this will only cause you to practice mistakes.

Using Subdivisions During Practice

All good metronomes (link to best metronome blog) will allow you to turn on subdivisions (eighth notes, triplets, and sixteenth notes). A subdivision is a smaller part of the beat. For example, eighth notes are a subdivision of a quarter note. A good rule of thumb is to set your metronome beat to the smallest subdivision in the section you’re practicing. If the passage has sixteenth notes, turn on your metronome’s sixteenth note subdivision.

This would also be true if the section has dotted eighth-sixteenth note rhythms. You might want to use subdivisions when the tempo is very slow. It can be hard to stay with the metronome when the beats are far apart. Using subdivisions allows you to feel the space between the beats, making it easier to stay in time.

Turn The Metronome Off

Unfortunately, you won't be able to perform with a metronome, so it is important to learn to play in tempo without it. After you have practiced with the use of the metronome at your goal tempo, it is time to practice relying on your own internal beat. Here are some steps to help you not wean off the metronome.

  1. Turn on the metronome to your tempo.
  2. Listen to the beat until you feel like it is in your head.
  3. Turn off the metronome.
  4. Count the tempo in your head.
  5. Play through the passage you're practicing.
  6. When you are done, keep the tempo in your head.
  7. Turn on the metronome. Was your internal tempo faster or slower than the metronome?
  8. Repeat this process but make adjustments. If your internal time is slow, try playing a little faster.

Doing this regularly will help you become less reliant on the metronome.