The Different Types of Metronomes – Which Should I Use?

Published Categorized as Buying Guides, Guitar Accessories Selection

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types-of-metronomesThere are various types of metronomes but these can be broken down into two main types – digital and analog.

Below we’ll take a look at the different?metronomes out there and?the pros and cons of each type.

But wait – do I even need to be practicing with a metronome?

Why Practice with a Metronome?


I always recommend anyone to practice with a metronome. As humans, we are inherently bad at knowing when our own rhythm is off – if we knew it was off we?d adjust to correct it.

We might be able to tell when someone else is out of time, but noticing this in ourselves is a skill that not that many possess – until you start playing with a metronome.

If you only ever play by yourself and only ever want to play by yourself with no-one else around to hear and you aren’t concerned that your timing is bad and you don’t want to play along with a backing track, then there?s probably no need.

But if you?re like most people, you will want to play with others and you’ll want to be heard by others, and you’ll want to play along with other instruments even if it’s just a backing track. Even if you?re a solo artist timing is really important. You just won’t sound as good if your timing is poor.

>>Learn more about practicing guitar with a metronome here

Anyway, with that out of the way??

What Types of Metronomes are There?

As I mentioned above, there are 2 main types of metronomes – digital and analog (or mechanical if you will).

Analog (Mechanical)

mechanical-metronomeA mechanical metronome is the ?classic? metronome that we all think of when we think “metronome”.

They work with a wind up mechanism and don?t require electricity.

Most mechanical metronomes have a good number of different speeds and to adjust the speed you simply move the weight on the pendulum arm up and down.

You can get the more traditional larger mechanical metronomes and you can also smaller more compact ones.

Whichever one you go for (if you are looking for a mechanical metronome) make sure you have it placed on a level surface or the rhythm can become uneven (not a good way to learn!).


Digital devices have a few advantages over their mechanical counterparts including:

  • The ability to accent beats
  • Use of earphones
  • Use of visual cues
  • Options for click sound
  • Combining metronome functions with other functions (such as tuner) in a single device

There are a huge range of digital metronomes you can get.

  • Dial
  • Clip On
  • Pedal
  • Credit Card
  • In Ear

And there are probably other types too. let’s quickly see how these differ from one another.


dial-metronomeThe digital dial metronome has a dial on the front and works kind of similar to mechanical metronomes in that you move the dial around in increments to select the speed. This makes it very quick to adjust?the tempo.

Dial metronomes are digital though and require batteries. These usually come with flashing LED lights to add a visual cue. Extra functionality – such as accenting beats and different click sounds are usually fairly limited.

The use of a headphone jack (which most digital metronomes have) can make it easier to hear the click.

Clip On

clip-on-metronomeThere are a couple of different types of clip on metronomes.

The first type you usually just clip on to clothing or a music stand or the likes. These are single function devices – i.e. they are just metronomes.

Selection of tempo is done digitally (as opposed to via a dial).

The second type of clip on are devices that clip on to the headstock of your guitar (or onto other instruments). These are usually multi-function devices – as in they are usually tuners as well and tune off the vibrations of your instrument (see also Types of Tuners).


guitar-pedal-metronomeYou can also get guitar pedals that are metronomes. I?ve never seen a pedal that’s just a metronome – but some tuning pedals have metronomes as well.

Credit Card

credit-card-metronomeIf you want to go really compact then you can get metronomes the size of a credit card!

The downside is that it uses watch batteries (which can sometimes be hard to source and to change) and that it can be awkward to use because the buttons are so small.

But if you need something that’s really compact, then this could be an option.


Finally, you can also get in-ear metronomes.

These sit in your ear and the idea is that they take away the issue of being able to hear the metronome by being straight in your ear.

They do come with downsides though – functionality is limited, they don?t always fit that well, the buttons are small and awkward and you have to take them out of your ear to adjust the tempo.

In my opinion using headphones/earphones with a better metronome device is a better option.

Which Should You Choose?

There are pros and cons to both digital and mechanical metronomes, so which one you choose will come down to personal preferences.?I have outlined the pros and cons below so you can weigh up which is best for you.

Mechanical Metronome Pros and Cons

Here are the pros and cons for mechanical metronomes.


  • No batteries required
  • Accurate if on a level surface
  • Easy to use
  • Quick adjustment of tempo
  • Pleasing sound
  • Can look nicer than digital ones


  • Little functionality
  • Have to be on a level surface to be accurate
  • Stuck with one click sound
  • No accented beats
  • No visual cues
  • No ear phones (can be hard to hear in certain environments)

Digital Metronome Pros and Cons

And the pros and cons of digital metronomes – this will differ depending on the type too.


  • Extra functionality
  • Earphone use to make them easier to hear
  • Volume adjustments
  • Different click sounds
  • Can accent certain beats
  • Can be part of a multi-functional device (such as with a tuner)
  • Usually more compact than their mechanical counterparts


  • Need batteries and have to replace them
  • Some models/types more difficult/awkward to use
  • With some types it’s slow to change the tempo
  • Sound can be unpleasant depending on the model

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this post has helped you to decide on the type of metronome that is most suited for your purposes.

If you can think of any other types of metronomes or pros and cons that I may have missed please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below. All other comments and questions welcome also.

FAQs Types of Metronomes

What type of metronome is best?

A traditional metronome requires no batteries or power whatsoever, running instead on its own steam. This is the prototypical image of a metronome, rhombus-shaped and made from wood or plastic. Wittner Taktell is especially known for its distinguished quality in the field of mechanical metronomes. Alternatively, you can also use an electronic metronome, which is deemed more versatile for offering a more wide array of click sounds to suit the specific environment in which you are using the metronome. A Boss DB-90 is the one most commonly used by drummers, allowing them to use it with in-ear monitoring for a more personal experience.

Are digital or mechanical metronomes better?

This remains to be seen by each individual user. Despite the many advancements in metronome technology, many still prefer the classic mechanical metronome – they prefer the feel of it, the classic clicking sound, and the fact that you can easily see the visual sway of it back and forth. That being said, plenty of people still prefer the digital metronome. Often, a musician is not simply going to be limited to one playing environment – they are, rather, going to be playing in a whole host of different spaces with a different ambiance. Thus, it makes sense that the sound of a metronome should be customizable to the environment it is used in.

Are all metronomes the same?

Not at all, in fact, metronomes come in plenty of different styles, shapes, and sizes, though all are more or less designed to do the same thing – that is to create a type of sound that can be rhythmically followed to keep in time. Of all the metronomes, there are 3 main types – that is, mechanical, quartz, and digital. A mechanical metronome is a classic metronome, with its rhombus shape and loud clicking sound. A quartz metronome is a more ergonomic version of this classic metronome that, like the mechanical metronome, does not need to be fuelled with batteries. A digital metronome, on the other hand, does, but typically offers a whole bunch of other customization options as a result.

What is a quartz metronome for?

Quartz metronomes are an inexpensive alternative to mechanical metronomes. The latter is a classic example of a metronome, with a distinctive shape and tocking sound. They are, however, usually on the more expensive side – they do, after all, run on no power, so the investment eventually pays off. Still, a quartz metronome is a healthy substitute, running on the same kind of quartz power that watches use to survive, meaning the power can last for any number of years.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)


  1. I always thought of metro gnomes as some sort of height challenged dude who hangs around the subway exit.
    Not any more.
    Who me? Off tempo?
    I was wondering why my ukulele partners were giving me dirty looks!
    You make a good point. It’s hard to recognise when you are speeding up or slowing down. I like the old school mechanical metronomes best.

    1. Metro Gnomes! Awesome.

      I do like the mechanical metronomes too – they tend to look nicer and are simple and it’s pretty fast to adjust tempo. But I think the two biggest advantages of the digital metronome is the headphone/earphone capability, because it can make it easier to hear the clicks, and the ability to have accented beats.

  2. Hello,

    I am a dancer, and I recently incorporated a Metronome as part of my dance practice.

    It serves a good timing mechanism. I can adjust to different tempos, and it runs as long as I need it to as oppose to using music all the time that stops and starts.

    I can set the metronome, set my timer for and hour and keep it move for a good non-stop dance workout.

    1. Hi SanShar

      I didn’t even think about using a metronome for dance purposes – I’d only considered it for guitar and other instruments. But that definitely makes sense that it could be used for dance – Rhythm, I’m guessing is probably the most important asset for dancing?

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