Sunday, December 6, 2009

Free Online and Software Metronomes

By Mark T. Burke

Traditional metronome devices are simply amazing practice aids.  New versions are small and portable, feature rich and generally inexpensive. But lets face it, budgets don't always allow for another musical purchase.

Free, downloadable, computer-based metronomes can quickly put a metronome in the hands of a student.  Are they all created equal?  To help you decide, I've collected 5 readily available metronomes, tested the interface and performance and wrote a sentence or two about each.

TempoPerfect Metronome by HCM Software
Web-based or Software:  Software
Download and Installation:  Straight forward.  No membership or sign up required.
Interface:  Nice layout and subtle use of colors to enhance certain features.
Multi-metric:  Yes
Subdivision:  Yes -- even some that are impractically fast.
Pluses:  Includes a tempo scale showing common tempo terms and associated tempo ranges.
Cons: Metronome readout is poor, gray highlighted, digital number could be better.  The sound is a pleasant sound, but not very loud.
Final Thoughts:  Nice overall tool.  The sound limitations may not make this the perfect tool to play along with.  But for sure, since it is software based, it is accurate and easy to use.

Metronome Plus by M&M Systeme  
Web-based or Software:  Software
Download and Installation:  Choose language on the website.  Straight forward.  No membership or sign up required.
Interface:  WOW!  A bit intimidating at first.  Lots of buttons but they make sense after your start to use it. 
Multi-metric: Yes
Subdivision:  No
Pluses:  A host of sounds available and the ability to add your own.  Programmable patterns possible. Sound types make it easy to choose one you can hear while playing. 
Cons: No native subdivision.  You could create the subdivision with really fast tempo settings but doing so is not that easy.
Final Thoughts:  Great tool minus the subdivision issue.  The program mode is a great tool. It allows you to program tempo changes over time, great for teaching rit. and accel.

The Accelerating Metronome by Sean Luciw

Web-based or Software:  Software
Download and Installation:  Straight forward.  No membership or sign up required.
Interface:  Bold colors appeal to a younger audience. Simple layout.
Multi-metric: No
Subdivision:  No
Pluses:  A very simple metronome if you need just the basics.  The tempo change feature is great for exercises.   
Cons: The dials are hard to use.  I kept trying to move the dials in a circular motion.  Click and move your mouse up and down to change the dials.  The tempo change is time based, not musically based. 
Final Thoughts:  At first I found this little tool odd. But as I began to think of ways to use it, I think it will be a nice tool for scale patterns and for use when doing finger drills (woodwinds).  The sound of the click will certainly allow it to be heard while playing.

Advanced Metronome Online by Marcin Szpak
Web-based or Software:  Web-based
Download and Installation:  None
Interface:  A new approach that works.  The timeline at the top shows the instruments that have been chosen for the pattern.  Clicking on them deletes them from the timeline.  Sliders provide easy volume adjustments for each instrument. 
Multi-metric: No
Subdivision: Yes and No
Pluses:  A new approach to metronomes. To see the benefit, click on the Tango choice on the first screen.  Then, click start.  WOW!     
Cons: The interface does not have good user choice indicators so I was never sure what tempo I was using.  The rhythm pattern box was confusing to use at first. 
Final Thoughts:  This metronome really impressed me.  It appears to be a work in progress.  The style options are really nice and the sounds are high quality. This one is worth a look for sure.

At viaAcademies, we provide students with SmartMusic which also has a built in software based metronome. 

Practice Metronome by SmartMusic
Web-based or Software:  Software
Download and Installation:  Installs as a component of SmartMusic.  Accessed through "Practice Tools."
Interface:  The familiar SmartMusic interface is used.  A simple slider for the tempo and buttons for other options.  I still find the look and feel out dated.   

Multi-metric: Yes
Subdivision: Yes
Pluses:  Free to SmartMusic subscribers.  Flexible beat patterns and easy to use.      
Cons: The metronome is a bit soft and can be hard to hear. 

Final Thoughts:  A nice tool if you have SmartMusic.  Those familiar with the interface will find it familiar and usable.

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Do you use a great software or web-based metronome?  Add your review with others.  

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