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What Is a Digital Metronome?

Anna B. Smith
Anna B. Smith

A digital metronome is an electronic device that keeps a set tempo for musicians. This tool features a wide variety of speeds, and can also be used as a pitch finder. It is typically small and lightweight, and fits easily into a pocket or bag. Some models include a port into which earphones may be plugged.

Traditional metronomes operate using a mechanical wind-up feature. These tools are typically shaped like a pyramid and feature a central pendulum that moves from side to side in time with the chosen tempo. The musician can select the speed at which he wishes to device to operate using a dial. He then winds a turning key, often located on the bottom or back of the metronome.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Unlike the mechanical model, the digital metronome allows the user to select tempos using touch buttons and an LED screen. It features speeds that range from 40 beats per minute (BPM) to 200 BPMs, which are marked electronically using a loud tone or visually with a flashing light. It is also smaller and lighter in weight than its older counterparts. This tool can measure less than 4 inches (10.16 centimeters) in length, and be no wider than a half of an inch (1.27 centimeters). This type of metronome is portable, can be taken anywhere the musician must go, and tucks easily into instrument carrying cases or backpacks.

An earphone jack is provided on most models, allowing the user to plug his own head phones directly into the digital metronome. The musician can then keep time personally without distracting listeners with the electronic sound of the rhythm. Earphones may be worn discreetly during performances, as well, and provide a valuable tempo starting point for conductors.

Some models include an external tap feature. When this option is selected from the main menu of the digital metronome, the musician can tap on the outside of the electronics housing. The metronome then provides a tempo that matches or is similar in speed to that which the user is already producing. In this way, a musician can accurately pinpoint the tempo and mood at which a particular section of music should be played based on his internal instincts. This precise measurement can then be shared with other musicians, like members of an orchestra, who will need to match one another in speed and rhythm.

This tool can additionally be used as a pitch finder. The musician can select a tone from a one octave range of eight notes, which can be used to tune an instrument or provide vocalists with a pitch from which to begin singing.

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      Man playing a guitar