Playing in time is a fundamental skill for any musician. Finding a metronome that you enjoy working with will help you to nail this important skill. Here are the metronome apps that I enjoy working with the most.
1. TempoPerfect by NCH Software – free app that you can get on all platforms (Search for TempoPerfect – don’t insert a space.)
This app allows you to play in a number of time signatures and will mark the subdivisions for you using different sounds. A lot of free metronomes will use the same beep sound for all subdivisions making it hard to truly know which beat you are on; TempoPerfect uses different sounds for beat 1, the other main beats and the subdivisions. You’ll always know where you are in the bar & it’s great for working on your rhythmic accuracy.
This is my go to metronome app for almost everything. The other apps on this list offer specific features that TempoPerfect doesn’t have, but if I’m not in need of those features, then this is the app I’ll use. A great general purpose metronome app.
2. Time Guru by Decibel Consulting/Avi Bortnick – not free.
Time Guru really helps you to work on your timing by missing out random beats in the bar or by allowing you to program a series of bars that are either sounded out or silent. I’m not a big fan of the random beats missing function, I find it rather distracting – but I am a big fan of being able to set up a series of bars with some sounded out and some silent.
I often use this metronome to play 4 bar loops – 3 bars loud & 1 bar silent, or 2 bars loud & 2 bars silent. I use both these loops for testing my timing when playing grooves – can I keep time when the metronome drops out? I use the 3 bars loud & 1 bar silent loop for practicing drum fills; Play the fill during the silent bar – are you rushing or dragging? Do I need to throw something at you? (If you haven’t seen Whiplash, go watch it, great movie!)
Once you can keep your groove consistent with one or two bars of silence, maybe add some more silent bars? I normally have at least 2 or 4 loud bars to help me settle into the groove before the silence starts. Extend the silence as far as you like, challenge yourself – 4 bars loud & 4 bars silent, 4 bars loud & 8 bars silent? I’ve always treated this as a game. Start with a simple groove and see how far you can push the silence.
The other great thing about this app is it gives you plenty of choices on the sound – including voices counting out loud. For students who are new to using metronomes a loud voice counting 1, 2, 3, 4 (in one of 5 languages!) is sometimes just what they need to really know where they are in the bar.
The only downside to this app is it doesn’t mark subdivisions very well. To get 8th notes in 4/4 time you need to select 8 as the meter and then change the note value to 8th notes – the 8th notes will all sound exactly the same – not easy to differentiate between the downbeats and the upbeats. The human voice option will also count all the way up to 8.
3. Metronome: Tempo Lite by Frozen Ape Pte Ltd – free
There is a paid version of this app, but I haven’t needed the extended features yet, I’m happy with the free version.
The main attraction of this app is that it can automatically increase or decrease the tempo for you every X number of bars or after a certain period of time. So if you’re practicing your paradiddles, you can set the metronome to speed up by 3 bpm every 16 bars or every 2 minutes. Start it off at 120bpm and keep paradiddling until you can keep up any more. It saves you having to keep stopping to alter the tempo and losing the flow. Use it to find out how fast or slow you can play your favourite grooves before they fall apart. The latest version also features the ability to mute bars after every few loud bars – maybe you don’t need time guru after all.
You can select from a few time signatures and the ability to accent or mute certain beats in the bar is a nice addition – you may just want to accent beat one to start with! It will also play different subdivisions but doesn’t quite execute it as well as TempoPerfect.
It’s worth spending the time to find a metronome app that you enjoy working with. Time spent practicing with a metronome is time well spent and will only help you to improve as a drummer – your main job in a band is to keep time! The more you practice it, the better you’ll get, the stronger your time feel will be.