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Should I use a metronome for practice or not?

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

A metronome is “a device that produces an audible click or other sounds at a regular interval that can be set by the user, typically in beats per minute.” In simple terms, it is a device that ticks back and forth to help keep musicians in beat with the tempo.

Now you must be wondering, does my child or myself need a metronome? Some can argue that it is pointless to use a metronome such as Adam Rafferty. He argues that “I do not recommend it at all.” Rafferty believes that there is a natural groove that we possess. He calls it “body rhythm” and without effort, your body does it on its own. Rafferty states that he has played with many musicians with either perfect beats/time but no groove and others with amazing groove but no sense of time. Rafferty offers some tips on how to enhance your own groove:

“1) Go with your gut more than your head.

2) Dance!!! I don’t care how good someone says their time is. Git on the dance floor and let’s see what your feet and body say. I love dancing. Feel funny dancing? Well, then you’re just as funny playing music. No excuses – dance!

3) Play with the heaviest groovers around. Go right into a situation that feels intimidating and go up against any fears or insecurities you may have.

4) Play the blues, play with soul. It’s easier and more natural to get more complex with harmonies and melodies on a basis of blues and solid groove than it is to play complicated music and try to go back and find the groove.

5) Know that people like grooves. Get your audience to participate, and not just watch you. It’s not about you – it’s about the vibe and the magic.”

Now I agree with Adam Rafferty to some degree. I believe that we all possess an inner groove that comes out naturally, which is why we tap our feet to a song or even dance a little to something that makes us feel something. But as a classically trained pianist, you do need the metronome. Honestly, the metronome is your best friend when it comes to practicing. The way I use a metronome to be successful is by setting it at a slower tempo and building it up to a normal tempo as I progress. This keeps me in a stable beat so there aren’t parts where I speed up unnecessarily.

A metronome can also help you maintain a steady tempo throughout the whole song. In a lot of longer music pieces, for example, people tend to slow down by the third or fourth page which makes the song different from how it sounded from the beginning.

I’m not saying everyone needs a metronome to be successful, I actually found it quite hard to use the metronome when I was younger, I couldn’t concentrate on the music and the ticks in the background. I found the metronome useless until I got into higher levels of RCM (4+) where it started to make more sense in use. But this is something that you have to work on constantly and train your ears to get better at.

Now back to the golden question. Do I need a metronome? Simple answer, that depends on you. Whether you want to find your natural groove or play on the beat as your favorite composers once did, that is up to you to decide.

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