There 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.
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).
A 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.
- Clip On
- Credit Card
- In Ear
And there are probably other types too. Let’s quickly see how these differ from one another.
The 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.
There 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).
You 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.
If 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
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.