The best metronomes are an essential practice tool for musicians, as they produce a steady and consistent beat to help you master tempo and rhythm. Metronomes, often called a click track, come in mechanical and electronic forms, and they vary widely in price depending on the features you need.
There’s no escaping it: becoming a great musician takes practice. As with any skill, experts believe you need to put in a minimum of 10,000 hours over a lifetime to truly master an instrument. So if you’re serious about getting better at your instrument of choice, whether that’s an electric guitar, acoustic guitar or even slaying behind a drum kit, grabbing one of the best metronomes will help you on your way.
Rhythm training is a crucial part of learning any musical instrument and for that, a metronome is an essential tool. They’re designed to produce an audible tick at a constant rate of your choosing, selectable in beats per minute (BPM) so that the clicks or beeps keep you in time as you practice scales, arpeggios, exercises and complete pieces.
But how do you go about choosing the best metronome for your needs? Before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at our top metronomes overall…
Best metronomes: MusicRadar's Choice
The Boss DB-90 is our pick for the best metronome thanks to its sheer breadth of features and versatility. Quite simply, this one is difficult to beat. A special mention, however, goes to the unassailable Korg MA-2, for being a solid, rugged solution with a great pedigree that can be picked up for pretty much peanuts.
In the more traditional corner, the Wittner 811 is an unsurpassed, though rather expensive choice in our best metronomes guide. Its timeless design and impressive build quality means this is probably the only metronome you’ll ever need to buy. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you won’t go wrong with the cheaper Wittner 836 Taktell Piccolo, as long as you don’t need a bell.
Best metronomes: Product guide
More like a mini drum machine than a metronome, the Boss DB-90 is literally the all-singing, all-dancing king of the timekeepers, with a huge array of functions that are reflected - quite fairly, let’s face it - in its somewhat hefty price tag.
This seriously pro timekeeping tool has it all - four non-abrasive metronome sounds, including human voice count, realistic PCM drum sounds, 50 pattern memories, instrument input, and even a 5-pin MIDI input to sync to an external sequencer for onstage cueing.
Note mixing lets you adjust the levels of different note values to create new beat variations, and there’s an onboard Rhythm Coach training feature, complete with built-in microphone, to build speed and accuracy. You only get a reference tone generator in place of an actual tuner, but metronome-wise, it looks like Boss thought of everything with the DB-90, making it the best metronome overall.
Pyramid-style pendulum metronomes have just one job, at which they excel, and Wittner’s extensive range of models delivers just the right blend of antique style and modern build quality for those who prefer a traditional approach to timekeeping.
The Wittner 811 is the most popular model in the German company’s Maelzel range, and although there are admittedly few boxes to tick with this type of metronome, the 811 ticks all of them, with its smart wooden finish and classical tempo scale printed behind the pendulum shaft for reference.
It has a bell that can be set to indicate 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8 time, chiming on the downbeat of each bar. If the bell selector is pushed fully in, it disables the bell and you just get a constant metronome tick. The 811 isn’t the cheapest option, but its timeless quality will make it well worth the expense.
With this update to Korg’s bestselling MA-1 digital metronome, Korg have improved upon its predecessor in several areas while managing to keep the cost way down. The MA-2 sports a larger pendulum swing display that’s 30% bigger than that of the MA-1, and a beefed-up beep tone to address loudness problems encountered by users of the old model.
Factor in a new Timer mode and an impressive 400-hour battery life from a pair of AAA’s and you have a substantially improved package that still represents an absolute bargain.
If you can put up with the one and only beep tone, all that’s left is to choose which of the two available colours you want - it’s available in two-tone blue / black or black / red - and you’ll be ticking along nicely.
If you’re after a traditional pendulum-type mechanical metronome but want something a bit less antique-looking and a bit more wallet-friendly, the Wittner Taktell Piccolo is the obvious choice. It’s also the cheaper option to the Wittner featured further up our best metronomes guide.
Still retro enough to look equally at home atop either an acoustic or digital piano, the plastic-bodied Piccolo is available in a vast array of bright and funky colours and has been designed to fit snugly into the crease of a piano’s music rest.
It’s a clockwork device, so has that traditional click tone in spades, plus the all-important, tempo-graded and weighted pendulum, whose swinging movement is almost as much of a timing guide as the click tone. Tiny, well-priced and easy to use, the Piccolo is a great buy.
Korg’s digital instrument tuners are somewhat legendary, so it’s a bonus to find a digital metronome like the TM-60 that also houses a tuner of typical Korg quality within the same tiny unit, rugged enough to be chucked into a music case.
It’ll run for up to 130 hours on a pair of AAA batteries, and features include a tap tempo function, 15 rhythm variations, auto power off and a memory backup that recalls your previous settings.
The TM-60 boasts a backlit LCD screen that’s 30% larger than that of the previous TM-50 model, allowing it to display the tuner and metronome simultaneously, so you can stay in tune while practicing. There’s also an input jack for Korg’s optional TM-200 contact microphone to increase tuner sensitivity.
This combined tuner, metronome and tone generator from Kliq is compact and ultra-portable and features a large, bright LED display and sizable rotary jogwheel for setting the tempo.
On the metronome side, there are plenty of features including a tap tempo function and a decent variety of beats and rhythm patterns, alongside a tuner with various tuning modes, transposition settings, and pitch calibration for all manner of instruments. There’s only one beep sound for the metronome, but as beeps go it’s not as harsh and annoying as some we’ve heard.
The MetroPitch runs for 40 hours on a pair of AAA batteries, is available in smart metallic black, blue, gold or red finishes, and Kliq obviously knows what musicians are like, because the unit comes with a protective pouch and a three-year guarantee.
With its unique truncated pyramid design, the Korg KDM-3 is the best metronome for combining a traditional aesthetic with modern functionality in a feature-rich package. It’s available in a variety of finishes, including a limited-edition model with a wooden front panel.
The KDM-3 offers eight selectable click tones to choose from, including human 1,2,3,4 voice count and a sampled mechanical metronome tick. The large start/stop button on the top also flashes in time with the beat for a useful visual indicator.
With a built-in timer mode for timed practice sessions and a useful tempo guide printed up one side, the KDM-3 provides a great balance of traditional metronome design and modern functionality.
For those who dislike the clicking of a metronome tick, vibration may prove a less intrusive medium for timekeeping. This is where the Soundbrenner Pulse comes in, offering a haptic feedback solution for situations where an audible click may be difficult or impractical.
A 50cm diameter circular device that can be attached to one of two bundled straps and worn like a large smartwatch on your wrist, or alternatively across your arm or leg (or even across the body using an optional long strap), the Pulse vibrates to the beat and flashes an LED rather than playing an audible sound.
Like a smartwatch, the Pulse has a capacitive touch sensor for tapping interaction and a rotating outer wheel to select the tempo value. It communicates via Bluetooth with a slick and comprehensive companion app, allowing you to customise LED colour, alter vibration strength settings, add an audible click, create set lists, sync multiple Pulses together and much more.
Designed specifically for drummers, the Tama RW200 excels in a live environment. It goes loud, can be mains powered, has a large backlit display, big start stop button, large rotary dial for quick tempo adjustments and a start / stop footswitch input - and that’s just for starters.
Two different click tones and six rotary knobs for mixing in subdivisions allow you to create limitless beat variations, alongside which you’ll find plenty of memory for pattern storage and a 30-song memory for custom setlists.
Furthermore, the new Stage mode makes the click disappear after eight bars, you can hook the RW200 up to an external sequencer via its 5-pin MIDI In port and even mount it directly to a kit using Tama’s optional RWH10 mount.
The Seiko SQ50-V is a quartz metronome featuring an ergonomic design that sits nicely in the hand while you use your thumb to dial in the desired tempo via the prominent, 39-position thumbwheel selector on the front of the unit. This is marked off in traditional Italian music tempo terms as a reference.
Once selected, you can rest the unit on its base or use the provided flip-out kickstand, then sit back and enjoy one of the two available woodblock-esque click sounds - high or low pitch - accompanied by a flashing LED on the top of the device that acts as a visual cue.
Elsewhere, all that remains is a volume control, a mono headphone output and a simple tone generator that produces A or Bb pitched tones.
Best metronomes: Buying advice
Choosing the best metronome for you
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Surprisingly, for a device designed to do just one job - to go ‘tick’ at a particular set speed - there are a number of things to look out for when choosing the best metronome for you. Let’s take a look at those now…
Measured in beats per minute (BPM), the range of click speeds you can dial in normally spans a ponderous 30bpm to a frantic 250bpm. Digital metronomes offer the ability to set specific tempo values precisely, while mechanical versions often just provide a set of preset values at selected intervals across the range. This is in keeping with the traditional Italian musical terms for tempo (such as andante, allegro, etc) that you’d find marked on a musical score.
You’ll see this function on many of the best metronomes and it gives you the ability to set the metronome’s tempo by literally tapping a button or pad on the front of the device. It then interprets the speed of your taps to the nearest whole bpm value and continues to tick at that set speed.
Metronomes can indicate the downbeat of each bar by a variation in the tick sound. Mechanical metronomes often use a physical bell, while digital variants will employ an alternative pitched sound or louder tick for the downbeat. That’s great if you’re practicing or playing in regular 4/4 time, but what about other time signatures such as 3/4, 12/8 or even 7/4?
The best metronomes are able to handle a variety of different time signatures, placing the downbeat sound correctly after the required number of sub-beats. An even better one will allow you to select and even edit your own beat variations and subdivision patterns to suit your playing.
Literally the heart of every metronome is the sound it makes while ticking. How loud and/or annoying is the metronome sound - does it beep or tick? Can you change it to suit the environment? Can it be heard over the sound of your instrument?
Many musicians prefer classic, unpitched ticks to the pitched beeps offered by some models, as pitched sounds can interfere with the pitch of the piece you’re playing, especially if you’re particularly pitch-sensitive.
So the best metronomes offer a choice of at least two tick sounds, and some high-end digital metronomes enhance their appeal to traditionalists by using samples of traditional clockwork metronomes for their tick sounds.
So here we present our pick of the best metronomes available in 2020…
Best metronomes: mechanical vs digital metronomes
Dedicated hardware metronomes may be looked on as something of a redundancy to DAW-based musicians, as all computer-based workstations have a built-in metronome of some sort to keep you in time while recording new parts. Digital pianos also now all feature a built-in metronome as a matter of course, as do the best electronic drum sets. So why would you need an external one?
If you’re learning or practicing an acoustic instrument, you’ll at some point need to focus on how to play in time, especially if you’re a classical player aiming to take graded exams. For this scenario, a hardware metronome is an essential accessory, but they’re also useful in a live band setting for keeping everyone in sync.
As mentioned above, metronomes fall into two broad categories: mechanical and electronic. The traditional, pyramid-shaped wooden mechanical metronome is usually clockwork, involving a pendulum equipped with a sliding weight that you move up and down to determine the tempo.
Some models also feature a bell that can be used to indicate the downbeat, the time signature of which can be changed by pulling out a dedicated knob on the side of the unit.
Pendulum metronomes look great on the lid of a grand or upright piano, and have been a standard feature of music rooms since their invention in the early 1800’s. These days, the wooden casing is sometimes swapped out for a lighter, plastic equivalent, which can make the unit easier to carry around, but the basic principle remains unchanged.
Electronic metronomes are battery-powered and much more accurate than their traditional mechanical counterparts, and these days come brimming with additional features. They tend to be small enough to be nonchalantly chucked into an instrument case before or after a lesson.
Some have basic built-in tuners, handy for guitarists, violinists, or anyone whose instrument requires a regular tune-up before practice sessions or performances. Though we’d also recommend the best guitar tuners for players wanting a more dedicated tool. The most technologically-advanced models are wearables that resemble smartwatches and offer haptic feedback in the form of pulsed vibrations felt through the wrist, as well as the more conventional audible click or beep.
The best metronomes: other features to look for
Some digital metronomes apply the Swiss Army knife approach and include a built-in digital tuner, handy for guitar, bass and string players, while others make do with a reference tone generator that lets you tune your instrument by ear.
At least one on our list - the Boss DB-90 - even acts as a sort of practice preamp for guitarists and bass players, allowing them to plug their instrument directly into the unit and monitor it along with the click through the headphone output.
What are software metronomes?
You’ll find software metronomes built into every computer or tablet-based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) as a matter of course, but these are tied into the functionality of the software as timing aids for recording new parts and not designed for use when practicing.
Of course, there are plenty of smartphone apps available for iOS and Android that function as metronomes. These are convenient, inexpensive and work perfectly well, but there are many situations where it’s preferable to turn off your phone and just sit down with a little box of ticks to practice distraction-free, so we’ve deliberately turned the spotlight on dedicated hardware metronomes for the purposes of this guide.
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