Metronomes are easily the most useful tool when it comes to improving your timing as a musician and performer.
There’s no doubt you’ve had the experience of practicing a song over and over to find out that the band plays it about 10 BPM faster than what you now have in your muscle memory.
Wouldn’t it have been great if you could have practiced to the same tempo again and again?
Now obviously some music requires more movement in tempo, though for the most part, having an even playing pattern can yield incredible results.
There are two basic kinds of metronomes out there on the market: Mechanical and Digital. In this article, we’ll be discussing the two types, the advantages of each, and what we believe are the top 5 products in each category!
The Bottom Line…
If we could only go with 1 digital metronome and 1 mechanical, these are the ones we’d recommend.
- 1 Metronomes Explained
- 2 Digital Vs. Mechanical
- 3 Tempo Range and Beat Selection
- 4 Click Volume
- 5 Sound
- 6 Metronome Design
- 7 Tuner
- 8 Best Mechanical Metronomes Compared
- 9 Best Digital Metronomes Compared
- 10 Time to Make Your Decision!
Mechanical metronomes utilize adjustable weight on an inverted pendulum rod to control the tempo. You can easily slide the weight up and down to change the tempo, as well as add other sounds like bells to create markers for different time signatures.
Because these are relatively simple devices, there are only a few things you need to keep in mind when looking to buy one.
As for Digital Metronomes, these battery powered devices come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and most of the time have different features built-in that separate them from their mechanical cousins.
They are a bit more complex and therefore require a bit more investigation before purchase.
Digital Vs. Mechanical
If you’re looking for versatility and portability, there’s no doubt that you should look for a digital metronome. If you want simplicity and a traditional feel, mechanical is the way to go.
Digital units tend to offer larger BPM ranges, portability, and extra features like drum patterns, tuners, etc. For the modern musician, these additional tools can be beneficial.
For those who just need to practice at home, like in a piano room, for example, a traditional mechanical metronome will have everything what you need.
Tempo Range and Beat Selection
Having a metronome with a wide range of tempos can be extremely important if you’re planning on practicing music with many tempo changes. For the most part, mechanical units can be adjusted for a range of tempos between 40 bpm and 208 bpm while the digital versions usually run from 30 bpm - 250 BPM.
Some on our list go up as high as 280 bpm, which can be excellent if you want to practice specific pieces with a double-time click.
Unlike digital metronomes, mechanical units can’t move up and down by 1 bpm. Instead, they utilize different intervals like “2” or “4”.
Obviously for the most accuracy, you’d want to get a metronome with smaller intervals up and down the face of the pendulum.
Beat Selection goes hand in hand with tempo range. Some mechanical metronomes come with bells that help to subdivide the beats in 2s, 3s, 6s, etc.
If you’re a violinist learning to play something like Schoenberg, for example, where the pieces sometimes have multiple time signatures throughout, having something to help you stay on the correct beat can be extremely helpful.
If you’re a drummer laying down some simple 4/4 funk rhythms, this may not be such an important factor in your decision process.
The volume of a metronome is how loud it outputs the click or tempo sound. The volume that you’ll need is truly dependent on the type of instrument you play.
For example, if you’re a drummer, you would need a product with a higher volume output than if you’re a violinist.
Remember though that having a metronome that is too loud could be distracting or annoying to you and the rest of the people in your home or practice space.
Luckily, there are quieter models available as you’ll discover below!
Different mechanical metronomes output various types of sounds. Typically, your traditional wooden metronomes will output a beautifully natural, woody tone that reflects the design.
This sound is deeper, more resonant, and seems to be the most pleasant to the ear, especially for those playing acoustic instruments.
Cheaper, plastic mechanical units tend to have clicks that are much thinner and sharper to the ear. The sound isn’t the end-all of a metronome, though, after hours of listening to a constant click, a more natural sound might help retain your sanity.
For Digital Metronomes, the volume of the click might not matter so much, as they typically come with headphone ports so you can better hear no matter what situation you’re in. As for the actual sound, you’ll usually find these with typical clicks and chirps on lower end devices, or PCM sounds like claves and agogos on higher-end devices.
The design has to do with the look, shape, and materials used in the manufacturing of the metronome.
Most mechanical versions will have the traditional, bulky pyramid shape. The bottoms are larger with thinner tops, and the pendulum runs up alongside the face. Some mechanical units, however, are made with a sleeker, more modern look in mind. The Yamaha metronome on our list, for example, attempts to take the mechanical metronome out of the 1800s with the thinner, black design
Materials can be important for many as well. Witnner is a metronome company that is famous for their high-quality wooden metronomes. The types of woods used can range from genuine walnut to stained hardwood to mahogany and beyond.
If you don’t feel like throwing down the extra cash, you can also get a plastic unit for much cheaper.
The biggest thing to consider when purchasing a digital metronome is what kind of design you want to buy. There are a wide variety of digital designs with different functions and features.
Here are some of the most common:
Dial metronomes live by their name, as they have a huge dial smack dab on the face.
In a similar style to the mechanical, you set the tempo by twisting the dial to get to the correct speed. Unlike mechanical metronomes though, these are digital and require batteries.
Most dial metronomes come with flashing lights on the front that help give you a visual reference similar to the swinging pendulum on a mechanical version.
While clip-on metronomes come in an array of different shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common: They clip on. It’s magical!
You can easily attach these to anything from your jeans pocket to your music stand. Some are even built specifically for guitarists who want to clip them onto their headstocks. It’s not unusual to find these with tuners built in as well.
3. Credit Card
If you’re looking for the most portable type of metronome, look no further than the credit card designs.
These digital timekeepers are thin and small and great for musicians who are always on the go and need something they can comfortably fit in their pockets.
While it may not be a priority when buying a metronome, you’ll be happy to know that some digital devices double as a tuner.
This can be especially helpful if you have a headstock clip-on tuner for guitar or violin and need a way to tune and get everything done at once!
Best Mechanical Metronomes Compared
Best Overall (Mechanical)
This is one of the highest quality metronomes in Wittner’s line that comes with the classic mat silk maelzel design. Unlike the original Maelzel, this new one comes complete with a bell. This makes it far more versatile than some of Wittner’s other models, as well as perfect for a range of instruments.
The time-keeping ability of the Wittner 813M is on point, giving players total accuracy similar to a digital device in a tempo range from 40 bpm to 208 bpm.
But one of the biggest pros of this model is the sound!
The natural wooden click is much deeper and richer compared to cheaper models and is far more pleasing to the ear. Pair that with the bell that you can help break up your beats into different subdivisions with and you truly have an all-star mechanical metronome.
Do keep in mind though that this product has some volume to it, so if you’re working in a small space, you might want to go for something a bit slimmer.
Bottom Line: For a top-of-the-line metronome with a versatile auditory and visual reference, a deep, resonant sounding click, and a casing that can double as a mantle piece atop your family’s piano, the Wittner 813M Maelzel with Bell is a solid choice.
Best Budget (Mechanical)
If you want to learn to keep time in your playing but don’t believe it’s worth the extra Benjamins, the Neewer Square Windup is an excellent budget alternative to the high-end metronomes on the market.
The sound on this device is loud and clear, though more on the artificial side. If you’re looking for that natural woodblock sound, look elsewhere.
The windup design gives you pretty accurate timing no matter what type of instrument you’re playing. You can easily adjust the tempo between 40 bpm and 208 bpm and change the beat selection between 0, 2, 3, 4, and 6.
As for the design, it looks like wood, though is made of plastic, and almost has a bit of a reddish tint to it. This is perfect if you want the traditional look without having to spend the extra moolah for real walnut.
Bottom Line: If you don’t care about long-lasting, everyday reliability, though want a Metronome that can get the job done while not looking like a toy, the Neewer Square Windup is one of the best in the low price range.
Thanks again to the beautiful German craftsmanship that only Wittner could offer, we received the Wittner 803M.
This incredibly reliable unit comes with a gorgeous walnut casing that gives you the sense that you have a premium, top-tier metronome at a lower price than you’d expect.
One thing to note is the Wittner 803M does not come with a bell. This is great if you’re not trying to disturb the neighbors, roommates, or family, though might make practicing in different time signatures a bit more difficult.
Though the walnut casing looks fantastic on its own, Wittner even decided to give it a matte finish for a bit of gloss and protection.
The 803M performs just as well as the 813M and sounds just as great with the deep, rich, and resonant ticks that are loud in volume and natural in sound.
We were surprised to see that this product runs within a tempo range from 40 bpm to 280 bpm, much wider than the majority of mechanical metronomes out there.
Bottom Line: If you can go without having the bell, the Wittner 803M can give you a natural, resonant sound in a beautiful wood casing with a tempo range that is incredibly versatile. It’s another top-of-the-line choice from Wittner.
Everybody and their mother knows about Yamaha, though many don’t know that they’re in the business of making metronomes. The MP-90BK is just one of the many reliable and high-quality musical products that Yamaha provides.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick this device up is how lightweight it is compared to other traditional wooden models. This is because it is made out of plastic. Though that might turn most people off, it’s good to know that the plastic looks and feels high-quality, and also gives your practice space a more modern touch.
If you want a sound that is much sharper and louder than most mechanical metronomes, this is where the MP-90BK shines. It can genuinely be used for any instrument and gives you a ridiculous amount of volume. The bell is also pretty loud, but can also be turned off if you don’t need to mark specific time boundaries.
The added stopper on the bottom is a nice feature, allowing it to be secured easily to any surface that you put it on.
Bottom Line: For a sleeker and more modern alternative to traditional wooden metronomes, the Yamaha MP-90BK should be one of your first considerations. It’s loud and versatile, making it useful for all kinds of instruments.
Cherub is one of those companies that not many people have heard of, but most people should know about. Their WSM-330 metronome is a high-quality yet inexpensive plastic metronome that gives you a solid 40 to 208 bpm tempo range.
The metal mechanism for winding up is durable and easily one of the outstanding features on this little guy. It’s a bit heavier at 1.1 pounds, though comes in a slimmer and more portable design than others on this list, making it perfect for traveling with.
At first, you’ll notice that this model is very loud, making it great for all instruments, though maybe too loud for someone who is afraid to disturb. That being said, the sound is decent and woody, so even with the loudness, it’s not piercing.
One of the more unique features of the Cherub WSM-330 is the bell with the 5 off/on position. You don’t see these bells on a lot of cheaper metronomes, especially with this quality, so it’s a nice extra. You can easily turn the bell off as well if you don’t need it.
Bottom Line: For a solid, inexpensive metronome that is portable and packed with features that many products in this price range don’t have, the Cherub WSM-330 might just be your best bet for purchasing.
Best Digital Metronomes Compared
Best Overall (Digital)
As one of the best digital metronomes on the market, the Boss DB-90 has tons of advanced features and works well for just about any instrument you can think to pair it with!
Not only do you have the choice between four different click sounds, you also get a human voice count off so that you can always make sure you’re on the correct beat. If you want to dig deeper than the steady click, you can utilize the built-in PCM drum patterns to help develop a better rhythm.
Boss has even gone as far as allowing users to connect their quarter-inch instruments to play through the speakers with the click, as well as connect MIDI instruments to take advantage of the onboard sounds.
If you live in a place where you need to keep it quiet, this is an excellent feature! Did we mention it also only weighs 1.25lbs? For the pro build, that’s one lightweight metronome.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something that is advanced and goes way beyond the spectrum of a simple digital metronome, the Boss DB-90 is one of the best out there!
Best Budget (Digital)
It’s always best to have a musical device that can kill two birds with one stone. Why carry around a tuner and a metronome when you can have the best of both worlds combined in one? This is where the Artisan Clip-On comes in handy!
This model can easily be clipped on to just about any instrument with a headstock, such as a cello or a guitar, or could be clipped on to a music stand.
Along with the metronome functions, you get 12 different tuning modes for various instruments, as well as a chromatic mode if you want to get serious.
The tuner uses vibration rather than a microphone, which is perfect if you’re trying to tune in an environment with tons of background noise. Anyone playing in a band knows how daunting it can be to ask everyone to be quiet a million times so they can tune.
The metronome comes with 8 separate rhythm types and nine different beats, making it very versatile for the inexpensive price.
Bottom Line: Clip-on digital metronomes can make life a little more hands-free. If you want something that can keep time and tune without any hassle, the Matrix MR600 is one of the best around!
At just under ½ a pound, this portable, pocket-sized dial tuner is perfect for use with just about any musical instrument application you can think of. The dial is convenient and simple and allows users to adjust tempo without hassle.
The Pendulum-style LED is similar to mechanical metronomes in giving the user a visual reference for time and tuning. The included downbeat feature is totally adjustable, giving the user a variety of time signature and volume controls.
The plastic build makes it lightweight and perfect for travel, though you do have to be fairly careful with it, as the dial is fragile and doesn’t do well under impact.
Some of the other built-in features include the volume control and chromatic pitch output for tuning.
Bottom Line: If you’re in love with the visual reference of mechanical metronomes but want something that is a bit more portable and easy to use, we would highly recommend checking out the Matrix MR600 Deluxe.
Not only does this little metronome come in the perfect size for those on the go, but it also comes packed with tuner and tone generator features. The BPM range is 30-250 BPM and has a variety of different beats and rhythm patterns to play with.
It also comes with a tap tempo feature to help you capture the tempo of some of your favorite songs.
The tuner works with a microphone, allowing you to tune just about any instrument you can think of. Unfortunately, it doesn’t clip on like the Artisan, though the added portability is a bit of a trade-off.
The KLIQ Metropitch also comes with a 3-year guarantee, meaning if anything happens to it within 3 years of purchase, you can turn it in for a new one. To us, this says that KLIQ believes in their product.
Bottom Line: In all, the KLIQ Metropitch is dependable, useful, and weighs next to nothing, making it perfect for traveling around the world with. At this size, you’d be pressed to find a better 3-in-1 digital metronome.
If you play something like drums, trumpet, or any other instrument that is inherently loud, the KDM-2 might be your savior. Its unique cylindrical structure helps the click to resonate loudly so that no matter how loud you play, you’ll still be able to hear it.
With a tempo range from 30-252 BPM (strange, we know), you also get 19 different beat patterns, as well as 3 PCM sounds including cowbell, clave, and agogo. If it’s a bit too loud for your taste or home situation, you can easily plug in a set of headphones.
Another unique feature for the KDM-2 is that it utilizes memory to remember your specific tempo, sound, and beat reference, that you were using last before you turned it off. This is great if you don’t want to have to tweak the setting every time you use it. That being said, the big LCD screen on the front makes tweaking setting a piece of cake.
Bottom Line: Louder players will need louder metronomes. Why not grab the KDM-2, which is not only loud but also comes packed with some fresh and unique features that help it stand alone among the rest.
Time to Make Your Decision!
Mechanical metronomes are truly something special. Though they might not be as accurate as digital metronomes, or as versatile, they give us a natural feel when learning to play. In a way, the slight wavering in accuracy might be useful for us as musicians, as we learn to adapt to tiny variations of accuracy as if we were playing with a real band.
While the Wittner 813M is our best overall choice for a mechanical metronome, we just love Wittner in general. The German company makes some of the best metronomes in the world and has been for over 100 years.
As for Digital, it’s difficult to find anything better than the Boss DB-90. Many guitarists might already be fans of Boss for their durable and inexpensive pedals, and those guitarists will be happy to know that the same level of craftsmanship was put into making this one-of-a-kind metronome.
We hope by this point you have a better idea on how to pick out a metronome to be your sacred timekeeper. From beginners to experts, metronomes are tools that should be used by everyone wanting to become a better musician.