Metronomes - which type is best?

We're talking about metronomes today! This is one of those tools that depending on what kind you have and how you implement it, your piano kid will either learn to use as an effective tool, or to dread it. I'm not here to tell you which kind you have to get, because I believe different students can have different experiences and responses. And the good news is that we really do have a lot of options! So I'm sharing some of my observations on several different types of metronomes and their usefulness that will hopefully help you find a good fit to try in your home practice space.

Smart Speakers
When I was travel teaching, I had several students with smart speakers in the same room as the piano, and I loved the convenience of saying "Ok google, set a metronome to 120 beats per minute" and bam!, it would. I also saw that when the piano kids got to tell Google or Alexa to turn on a metronome, and articulate how many beats per minute they needed, or the time signature, there was a level of ownership, as well as an increased understanding of what that those numbers really meant that was gained just because they just had to verbally give their smart speaker the instructions for their music.

Phone or Tablet Apps
Another very convenient option is a phone or tablet app, and the thing that can make these very exciting is that they can offer a lot of versatility to the point where they can almost become a drum machine. So instead of playing along to just a 'tick tick' sound, they can choose a rhythmic style, set the tempo and play along with a rock beat, or latin rhythm or whatever customized rhythm they choose. This can make practicing with a metronome really fun because you've got a built-in drummer!

Digital Metronomes
Quartz metronomes & digital metronomes have one distinct advantage that other types don't, and that is that they can be set to visual only with a light that flashes on the beats. These are useful when wanting to get a correct tempo before starting a performance when you don't want your audience to hear your metronome.

Mechanical Metronomes 
A few months ago, I picked up a mechanical metronome for the studio, and since bringing it in there's been LOT of student interest in it. They enjoy setting the weight that adjusts the tempo, winding it up, and then playing along with the beats. We've also been able to use it in time signature recognition games and rhythm drills. For very hands-on students, I think this would be a really effective home metronome option!

So in answer to the 'which type is best' question, it really depends on what your piano kid is going to engage with. You know them best, so give it your best guess and if it doesn't strike a chord, maybe try another type. 

And one last thought before we sign off today, if you need help implementing your metronome, or notice that your piano kid is tuning out the metronome no matter what you do, try the tips from this blog post from January 2019.