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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What kind of metronome do you prefer?

September 13, 2013 at 5:43 AM

This week I've been sharing my metronome travails, and it made me wonder, what kinds of metronomes are people using these days?

Here are my primary two (one nifty new and one newly repaired), and I also have a metronome app on my phone for emergencies:


How about you? Please answer the poll, then read on:

Though I use all kinds of metronomes, I must say that I have a special place in my heart for the mechanical ones. I just feel like they have a little bit more humanity, like a heartbeat or footfalls. They move! The electronic ones may be trusty, but can they do something like this?

The explanation with this video is that if you set 32 metronomes, set to the same speed, on non-moveable surface and set them rocking out of synch, they will remain that way indefinitely. But if you place them on a moveable surface and do the same, eventually they will synch up.

To me, this almost mimics the energy of an orchestra, this unspoken give-and-take that eventually allows these separate objects to move as one.

I'm pretty sure that if you set off 32 electronic metronomes at the same speed at different times, they'd remain quite un-interesting and annoyingly out-of-synch. My sanity would run out long before their little batteries did!

From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 9:08 AM
fascinating video!
From Brian Kelly
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 9:41 AM
It reminds me of those goose stepping North Korean soldiers we see on the news ! Watch the one in the right hand column (red), second row from about 2:00. It is the last one to fall into step at about 2:39. It is strangely mesmerising.

I do prefer the mechanical ones but they are getting quite expensive now.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 1:37 PM
Korg KDM-2, on the woodblock setting.

Like the above pictured Seiko, it has survived many swan dives off the stand.

From Nicky Paxton
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 5:32 PM
In recent years I have used an electronic metronome on the internet only because it's free and I hadn't previously had a metronome for a long time. Even so, I do miss the mechanical sort that I grew up with.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 7:27 PM
That's fascinating. Anyone know the scientific explanation for this?
From Victor Andzulis
Posted on September 14, 2013 at 2:08 AM
I LOVE my metronome+ app! Fantastic!
From Zlata Brouwer
Posted on September 14, 2013 at 5:13 PM
At home I use an electronical, in my shop I use a mechanical (although it's sparkling purple!) and anywhere else I use an iPhone app... I think I like the mechanical one best, I think because it most clear.
From Dessie Arnold
Posted on September 14, 2013 at 6:59 PM
I have an ancient Seth-Thomas mechanical, Franz black box electrical, a late dearly departed credit-card size Seiko, a Seiko clip on, an expensive largish Dr. Beat, and a Korg combo metronome/tuner (to replace my Seiko). I love the loudness and crispness of the Franz, but I really appreciate the different options that the Dr. Beat and the Korg offer - different subdivisions or emphasizing different beats (meters). I also love the tap feature and use it often. Sadly, my Seth-Thomas hardly gets used anymore, and I probably keep it around for sentimental reasons. The clip-on Seiko is great when traveling, and I like the clock feature, when I remember to set it. I've used it at gigs to keep track of time. The electronic ones all are too soft when I'm playing at full volume, so I usually use the Dr. Beat or Franz for that. Often I end up putting on a mute if I am using one of the smaller electronic ones.
From Kim Vawter
Posted on September 14, 2013 at 7:32 PM
I too have a lovely mechanical metronome that I got from an estate sale. I bring it to school when I get a chance to substitute for the music teachers. I have since tipped the top with a small dab of white out so I can see it as well as hear it. I guess I do use the electronic one more often since I can quickly dial it to the correct tempo and/or start slow and move faster. It has tone and is a no nonscense tool. The wooden mechanical one is an art piece and it is part of my "musical world" and homage to all acoustic musical items that have been reworked into electronic versions.

From Howard Harkness
Posted on September 14, 2013 at 9:21 PM
I prefer a mechanical metronome for a couple of reasons. I find it easier to use and follow than an electronic one -- even an electronic one that has a display of a moving pendulum. Another big reason for my preference is that batteries always run down at the least convenient time. When your mechanical metronome runs down, you "recharge" it by winding it up, which takes maybe 10 seconds or so.

When using an electronic one, I find it useful to use an ear bud (which you can get at a "dollar store") in the right ear, to prevent it from being drowned out by the violin. The right ear is best mainly because of the cross-connection with the left hemisphere of the brain.

I use a metronome a *lot*. I wrote an article in one of my newsletters (my newsletter is no longer published, but there is an archive) about the "metronome trick," which is the most powerful tool I know of for mastering very fast passages.

From Royce Faina
Posted on September 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM
I have a cheapie digital, "Qwiktime". Of course a cowboy told me he would, "tie a bone to the scroll of his cello and play to the speed of the dog's wagging tail hitting the wooden floor." Wyoming Metronome!
From Philip Novak
Posted on September 15, 2013 at 1:11 PM
Scientific explanation (I'm a mechanical engineer): look at the surface that the nomes are on, do you notice that it is bowing downward? That means the board has some give and flexibilty; so you could think of it as a string, albeit a very wide string. As each nome swings up and down, they are like many fingers plucking a string. Then, because any one of the nomes in a small way is beating with the natural frequency of the board, the amount that the board moves up and down increases and it does so more regularly. All the while the board's energy acts on the other nomes who are not in sync and overpowers them. It's like "pumping" your legs when on a child's swing to go higher. Or like if five kids on a trampoline all jump together, they can all go higher and higher, but if they're out of sync, no-one can bounce and they all fall over. If they could zoom the camera in on the board and provide a stationary reference point in the center (lengthwise) of the board you would see it move up and down. But this movement is at its greatest when the nomes are in lockstep and this affects the swing of all the nomes, causing them to have a greater swing (amplitude) than if they were on an immovable surface. So these nomes, while precise (in lockstep), are not accurate. If these nomes are set to 80bpm for example, they would actually be giving you less; like 79bpm. I have no idea how great this effect is, but an engineer in this field could actually calculate what that would be. The general concept is called harmonic resonance and is behind the destruction of the Tacoma Narrows bridge in the thirties (or forties, I forget). Also, this why a pendulum clock back in the days of Bach was unable to be used in ships, which they used not to tell time but to calcutlate longitude! For further reading on that, lookup John Harrison's chronometer.

Edit: I watched the video again and noticed there's a lot of side to side movement of the frame that's holding the board and very little movement of the board. So, even though the same principle applies, the nomes are reacting to the natrual frequency of the frame swaying side to side and not the board moving up and down. I doubt these experimenters were interested in the sway of the frame otherwise they would not have used a flexible board. Because the sway of the frame holding the board was more easily influenced by the nomes they could have used a rigid board and achieved the same effect. But a stiff frame and stiff board would have had no affect on the nomes. So even though they saw their desired result, this would have been a failed experiment.

Edit2: I use a wooden Wittner at home and Iphone otherwise. The nome app I use can set the camera flash as a strobe!

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