To Metronome or Not to Metronome

So yesterday I’m practicing Brahms 2 with a metronome and I realized that the metronome wasn’t helping me. I was just playing catch up and slow down to be with it. Ugh. This excerpt (as all do) really needs to groove – the eighth notes need to be perfectly even and clear and the quarter notes need to, well, groove.

So I turned my metronome off. I picked up my drum machine. Set it to play 1/16s on the hi-hat, bass drum on 1 & 3, and snare on 2 & 4 – you’re basic 1/16 beat. I played along… VOILA! Now we got a groove. My foot was tapping, I was enjoying the excerpt a whole lot more and it was nicely in time. I tried it without the drum machine. Still grooving! Ah, on to Marriage of Figaro.

Metronomes, like tuners, are not the be all end all solutions to problems. As a matter of fact, for the more advanced musician, they are probably better ‘check-in’ devices to make sure things are on track. But a drum machine creates groove and makes practicing a whole lot more fun.

I use the Alesis SR-18 which is nice but cumbersome to use. I’d recommend the older SR-16. For less expensive options try using loops in GarageBand or do a search for drum machine software. I just splurged on some expensive beat creation software for my recording and will post a review on that soon.


  • I haven’t heard the word ‘splurge’ in 20 years.

  • Back in the day I would play along with an actual recording. I counted all the big and small rests and if I needed to I would go back and play along with the excerpts. Learning to love the music conquered my fear of not playing well in an audition.

  • Tony – you make an excellent point and playing along with recordings is another tool I use. Players should definitely do this!!

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