What is a Metronome?
A metronome is any device that produces regular, metrical ticks (beats, clicks) — settable in beats per minute. It is a useful device used by pianists and any musician for keeping a regular tempo during a performance or is used as a training tool to help work on issues of irregular timing.
A brief history…
The first mechanical metronome was patented by Malzel, later popularized by Beethoven as a way to mark tempos in musical scores in the year 1815.
Between 1938 and 1968 Franz Manufacturing Company introduces its new electric metronome requiring 120v of household current to keep time. In years following, electronic advances would continue to improve the metronome’s accuracy and portability.
In the new Millenium… metronomes are now available in digital form and can often be found built into keyboards and pianos. There are many portable digital metrones available today.
Types of metronome
The mechanical metronome uses an adjustable weight on the end of an inverted pendulum rod to control the tempo. The weight is slid up the pendulum rod to decrease tempo, or down to increase tempo.
No batteries required; the time it takes to stop ticking depends on the degree of manually superposed force and the angle of the pendulum at the start, the set tempo (if it is adjustable), and the design of the model.
Most modern metronomes are electronic and use a quartz crystal to maintain accuracy, comparable to those used in wristwatches. The simplest electronic metronomes have a dial or buttons to control the tempo; some also produce tuning notes, usually around the range of A440 (440 hertz).
Sophisticated metronomes can produce two or more distinct sounds.
Software and apps/click tracks:
Metronomes can also be widely found nowadays built in to music creation software or simply as a standalone application. In recording studio applications, such as film scoring, a software metronome is often used to generate a click track to synchronize musicians.
Users of iPods and other portable mp3 players can use prerecorded mp3 metronome click tracks, which can use different sounds and samples instead of just the regular metronome beep. Users of smartphones can install a wide range of metronome apps. Either method avoids the need to bring a physical metronome along to lessons or practice sessions.