Being a drummer is much more than simply being able to play complex beats. In order to truly contribute to a band, or just be considered a good drummer, you need to be able to play steady, constant beats.
There is no better way to practice keeping a steady beat than by using a metronome. In this article, we will go over the benefits of using a metronome, how to use one, as well as different types and a review of the best ones on the market.
Let’s get right to it!
Different Types Of Metronomes
First of all, let’s answer the simplest question that you may have: What exactly is a metronome?
A metronome is a device that produces a sound at regular intervals that is predetermined by the user, in beats per minute or BPM. This device is used by musicians to practice playing an instrument to a regular pulse.
The first metronomes appeared as early as the 9th century! However, the more familiar musical metronomes started being used in 1816.
With the advancement of technology, metronomes quickly evolved into all different shapes and sizes. A notable addition to newer metronome models is the presence of a blinking light, or even a vibration, which helps the musician to track the beat more easily. Metronomes can be broken down into two main categories, Mechanical and Digital.
Each of these categories hosts multiple variations, each with their own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look!
Traditional and Compact Mechanical Metronomes
These devices are probably what pops into most people’s heads when you say metronome. They are usually made from polished wood or plastic and can be found in antique shops as well as music shops.
Mechanical metronomes utilize a mechanical clockwork mechanism which you wind up and release for it to gain momentum. By sliding a weight on the pendulum, you adjust the bpm in which it operates. The ticking sound then gives you a constant feel of the beat.
The main disadvantage of using this type of metronome is the fact that they aren’t loud enough for most occasions, especially when we’re talking about drums.bThey also need to be placed on a levelled surface to function properly, which can be a hassle when your kit takes up most of the space.
While digital metronomes can’t run forever like traditional, mechanical ones can (if you wind them up), they tend to be more practical because they are louder, or simply feature a headphone output for extra convenience.
Digital metronomes come in various shapes and sizes, with these being the most popular:
- Dial metronomes – Compact, selecting the tempo is done via a dial and is easier and faster than on other types. Often, these light up to the beat as well.
- Clip on – Much like clip-on guitar tuners, these metronomes are convenient because you can prop them up pretty much anywhere you want. However, because of their small form factor, they are easily lost, and operation can be slow and nerve-racking.
- Pedal – These are mostly used by bassists/ guitarists, and often integrate a tuner as well. Similar to clip on models, operating this type is less convenient than the dial ones.
- In-ear – While it’s very practical to have a metronome in your ear, they almost always have buttons that are way too small and easy to unintentionally press.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to choose a type that suits your needs!
Why and How Should I Use A Metronome?
Metronomes aren’t the most popular piece of equipment amongst musicians, at least when we’re talking about the ones that are self- taught. Even though it is a crucial and integral device you should utilize as much as possible, practicing with one just isn’t fun.
By using a metronome when practicing, you will slowly but surely train your mind and body to play in a steady and constant beat. Your crazy blast beats and gravity blasts are worthless unless they are perfectly timed and in sync.
Using a metronome is simple and straightforward! Check out the video below for some tips on using a metronome.
Depending on the type you’re using, either slide the weight on the pendulum to a certain BPM indicated on the sides, turn the dial, or press the buttons. It will then start clicking, or beeping, and flashing (if it has that feature), at the designated speed.
Now, all that’s left to do is practice strokes or beats, and try to play them in sync with the metronome. After some time, you will see an improvement in your playing, and will be able to contribute to your band much more than before!
Features and Specs to Consider
Various models offer some additional useful features you may find to be useful. Whether it’s an extra function or just something that makes using the metronome easier in certain conditions, let’s take a closer look:
- Backlight – if you go for a digital metronome, you might want to consider getting one with a backlit display, especially if you plan on using one for live performances, as the stage can be poorly lit in the back.
- Beat pattern samples – Preprogrammed beats may not be crucial for actually playing live, but it can help you when practicing. More expensive models offer realistic drum samples, and the cheaper ones just beep. At the end of the day, you don’t need to go all out.
- Beat controls – This feature means that you can choose from triplets, eight notes, sixteen notes etc. If you don’t think you need this feature, a standard metronome will do just fine.
- Headphone out – A crucial feature if you plan on using a metronome alongside a band, whether it’s for practice or live performances
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, it’s time for the reviews!
What better company to go to for a drummer- focused metronome than Tama?
Their Rhythm Watch RW200 digital metronome caters all the needs a drummer may come up with.
This metronome boasts a backlit LCD screen, which is definitely useful for using it on the stage. Above the screen are 3 knobs for separate volume controls for quarter notes, eights, and triplets.
It even houses separate volume controls for the beat and master track, so you are fully in control of the mix. It’s definitely meant for on-stage use, especially considering the headphone output.
With a simple turn of the large wheel on the right, you can adjust the actual tempo, and it also features programmable beats and patterns for you to practice alongside.
All of this is packed in a durable plastic housing, so you don’t have to worry if you accidentally drop it!
Bottom Line: A great, well-rounded metronome. Highly recommended.
Being RW200’s little brother, the RW30 makes for a more minimalistic and straightforward metronome.
It also boasts a backlit LCD screen, but slightly fewer controls when it comes to the actual beats.
The tempo can be set up from 30 to 250 BPM, and you can toggle through 9 different preloaded beats for practice.
A great second option if you're not happy with the RW200 price-point.
Going for a relatively small form factor means that you can pop this puppy in your pocket and play without it getting in your way.
On the other hand, as it comes with a clip on the back, mounting this metronome on a cymbal stand or virtually anywhere else is pretty easy and convenient.
Tap tempo is featured as well, making this model a very portable yet useful metronome to carry around.
Bottom Line: Another solid metronome. Something to consider if you need something a little more budget-friendly.
Seiko SQ50-V Quartz Metronome
Simple and minimalistic is what the SQ50-V quartz metronome by Seiko is all about.
It’s a perfect example of what a good dial metronome needs to have to cater the needs of a drummer.
With 2 types of tempo and beat sounds to choose from, it can help you master anything from basic to more complex patterns and beats.
A great option for those looking for something minimalistic.
A large LED on the top follows the beat, meaning that even if you can’t really hear the device, the light will still be there to keep you on track.
Perfect for beginners, easy to use, and pretty durable, the SQ50-V by Seiko will definitely get the job done.
Bottom Line: One of the best sellers on the market right. Simple and budget-friendly.
Tempi Mechanical Metronome
Following the traditional approach and design of mechanical metronomes, this model from Tempi not only performs nicely but looks appealing as well. Even though we previously stated that mechanical metronomes tend to be too quiet for most drummers, we still decided to include it in our review.
The fact that you can always rely on a piece of equipment sometimes means more than pure performance and extra features.
Not the best option for drummers. Only use if you have practice pads.
Offering a range from 40 to 208 BPM, this metronome is perfect for not so loud practice sessions, or simple pattern exercises on a practice pad. The fact that you can always look at the pendulum and follow the visual cue of the tempo and rhythm can greatly improve your overall skill level as a musician.
Bottom Line: Not recommended for drummers.
Cherub WRW-106 Drummer Trainer Metronome
Getting back to digital metronomes, at number 5 we have the WRW-106 by Cherub. Implementing a timer in a metronome, Cherub made practice sessions much easier. With two larger wheels on the left and right-hand side, you are able to adjust the timer duration as well as the actual tempo of the metronome.
Does not have a backlight.
Other parameters such as different note volumes and the master volume are controlled via a set of smaller knobs on the bottom of the front panel.
The screen displays all the necessary information, and there is even a tap tempo feature as well. If you find your hands to be too busy when practicing, you can even attach a pedal to it, for a more convenient operating experience.
Bottom Line: A decent metronome for all musicians. Drummers included.
Korg MA1BL Visual Beat Counting Metronome
Even though at first glance, the MA1BL by Korg may look like a tuner, it’s actually a very convenient and practical little metronome.
The whole idea was to make the process of using this model as simple and straightforward as possible, with a minimal number of buttons and knobs.
The handy LCD display shows all the necessary info, while two buttons are used for toggling sound and calibration, as well as beat/rhythm function. You can choose from 9 beats and 8 patterns for added diversity.
Small and practical design.
Including tap tempo is always a good idea, and Korg didn’t forget to do so with the MA1BL.
Because of its small dimensions, you can easily pop it in your pocket, and use it with a pair of headphones. If that’s not your thing, the back has a small stand, so you can prop it on a flat surface as well.
Small, yet practical, the MA1BL by Korg is an inexpensive metronome you will find to be very useful.
Bottom Line: Nothing wrong with this one. A great metronome for a decent price.
Boss has always been a leading brand when it comes to instrument- related electronics, and the DB-30C digital metronome is no exception.
The majority of the front panel is taken by a screen, making it perfect for viewing from a distance.
A tap tempo and start/stop buttons are placed on the right, while the rest of the controls include tempo up and down, note/pitch, as well as rhythm/beat toggles.
Buy if you trust the Boss brand.
Dr. Beat can easily handle time signatures up to 17 BPM, making it perfect for practicing some of the less convenient beats.
It, of course, has a headphone output and a volume control knob for a more convenient experience.
Bottom Line: You aren't getting many new features when you compare it to the Korg. I'd recommend going with the cheaper option if possible.
And finally, at number 8, we have the KDM02 True Tone advanced digital metronome by Korg. Offering a tempo range from 30-252, you will hardly find it as not suitable when playing drums.
The start/stop button is ergonomically positioned on the top, with a bump on it, so you can easily operate it even while it’s in your pocket.
A wheel in the middle of the metronome lets you dial in the exact BPM you need, with other parameters controlled via 6 more buttons on the front.
One of my personal favorites.
This metronome utilizes a cylindrical resonator in order to achieve higher volume levels, showing that Korg is aware of the main problem drummers have when using a metronome.
If you’re looking for a metronome you can count on, look no further than the KDM02 True Tone by Korg.
Bottom Line: A great option for professional musicians.