Friday, June 29, 2012


A metronome (Greek in origin: metron = measure, nomos = regulating=law) is an apparatus for establishing the appropriate musical tempo and consistency through a piece or exercise; more specifically it is the clockwork-driven double-pendulum device perhaps invented about 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel in Amsterdam in 1814 but refined and patented by the German inventor Johann Nepomuk Maelzel [or Mälzel] in 1815 under the title "Instrument/Machine for the Improvement of all Musical Performance, called Metronome."

Maelzel (August 15, 1772–July 21, 1838)

It is a device that produces regular, metrical ticks (beats, clicks). These ticks represent a fixed, regular aural pulse; some metronomes also include synchronized visual motion (e.g. pendulum-swing).

Maelzel's metronome, which aroused the interest of Beethoven and Salieri, calculated tempo in settable beats per minute (BPM), ranging from 48 to 160 (modern metronomes currently: 40 to 208) In fact, Beethoven was the first notable composer to indicate specific metronome markings in his music in 1817.  Within a few years several major composers had issued Maelzel Metronome (M. M.) numbers to give an indication of the general tempo intended for their works. These markings are found in the score at the beginning of a piece or movement thereof.  The notation M.M. is often followed by a numeric value indicating the tempo, as in M.M. = 60.

In the 20th century, synchronization in commercial music has brought the need for more sophisticated mechanisms. The metronome appears as a musical instrument in its own right in works by Ravel, Villa-Lobos and Ligeti. 


Poème Symphonique 

This is a 1962 composition by György Ligeti for 100 metronomes.

György Sándor Ligeti 
HungarianLigeti György Sándor[ˈliɡɛti ˈɟørɟ ˈʃaːndor]
May 28, 1923–June 12, 2006

The piece requires ten "performers" each responsible for ten of the hundred metronomes. The metronomes are set up on the performance platform, and they are all then wound to their maximum extent and set to different speeds. Once they are all fully wound there is a silence of two to six minutes, at the discretion of the conductor, then at the conductor's signal they are all started as simultaneously as possible. The performers then leave the stage. As the metronomes wind down one after another and stop, periodicity becomes noticeable in the sound, and individual metronomes can be more clearly distinguished. The piece typically ends with just one metronome ticking alone for a few beats, followed by silence, and then the performers return to the stage (Ligeti 1962).

"Poème Symphonique" by Ligeti

How to use a metronome and why it is important:

Practicing With a Metronome

It’s hard for beginner musicians to pay attention to both notes and timing. A metronome can help to slow things down and get it right. Using a metronome as you practice is a great way to keep track of your progress. It's easy to do by recording your speed in bmps (beats per minute).

The best thing to do first is to familiarize yourself with your part. It doesn't matter how fast we play if we don't know what to play.

Next, pick a tempo that you are comfortable playing your piece with. You should be able to get all your notes right at this speed. This will give you a good starting point.
As you gradually increase the tempo, you will start to identify the trouble spots. Analyze them and concentrate on those spots while you practice. Don't increase the tempo until you get it right and start to feel more comfortable. This is important! And yes, you will be tempted to speed up… I know I've been guilty of it too! But please resist the urge, as this method is very beneficial.

The following link:
is a site on the Internet which has a free online metronome to use while practicing


Synchronizing Metronomes