In today’s episode of PianoTV, I’ll walk you through 5 beginner exercises for playing with a metronome. There is a free printable PDF with all of these exercises, and I encourage you to download it and play along!
I wanted to create a really simple starting point for students in the first 6 months to 1-2 years of lessons who want to learn how to use the metronome properly.
If you’re not sure whether or not you use the metronome properly, you probably aren’t. There’s a learning curve with this, and many of my students have a hard time with this. That’s why I designed this set of exercises.
We’re going to hop to the keyboard for this video. What I’ll do is play through each exercise so you can follow along, and then talk about the challenges involved, and some tips and tricks.
Let’s get started!
Playing with a Metronome: Exercise no. 1: 8th notes
The first exercise is the simplest – it’s simply learning how to play 8th notes while the metronome is ticking a quarter note beat. We’ll assume that you can already follow a quarter note beat, but if you haven’t tried that, that would be a good place to start.
And to keep things really simple so that you’re able to concentrate on the metronome ticks, we’re just going to be playing simple pentascales (5 finger scales). There are a few written out on the sheet, but if you’d like a complete list of all 12 pentascales, check out the video we did on that, feel free to grab the free Maj/Min Scale Sheets here (these are the other “PDF’s” we mentioned).
We’ll set the metronome to a nice and moderate tempo to give us time to think – 80 is a good walking pace.
Now we need to fit 2 eighth notes in per tick.
Once we finish the pentascale, I like to finish with a simple little cadence – a jump from 1 to 5 to 1. This is a good addition when we’re working with the metronome because your brain has to shift back and forth from an 8th note rhythm to a quarter note beat.
So when we get to the quarter notes/half note at the end of each scale, you want each of those to line up with a metronome tick.
This is a good exercise for working through all 12 (major) pentascales. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, it’s time to move on to the next one!
Exercise no. 2: Whole, half and quarter notes
Our second exercise has no 8th notes – it’s all quarter, half and whole notes. This simple Bartok tune, like our pentascales, have the same notes in the right and left hand, so that you have some brainspace free to concentrate on playing with the metronome.
I like to give my students simple tunes like this, with a variety of note types, for metronome practice. It needs to be easy enough that you can actually “hear” that you’re doing it right. Sometimes if the piece is too tough, my students will turn on the metronome…and then completely ignore it. It’s like they don’t have enough capacity in their head to play their notes AND play with the metronome.
So for this one, we want to keep it simple and slow. Really pay close attention to your counting with the half and whole notes, and try to align your playing really cleanly to the beat. When you feel like it’s very easy to follow the metronome at a slow speed, try speeding it up little by little. The goal here is ease.
Exercise no. 3: 3/4 time signature
The third exercise is from Berens’ op. 70 collection of easy exercises. This one is for 3/4 training. Many of my students struggle with playing in 3/4 time, since it has such a different flow compared to 4/4 time.
What I often hear is people who play a 3/4 piece with a 4/4 beat. They leave an extra beat hanging around each bar line. That’s why I created this as a metronome exercise.
Set your metronome to a 3/4 tempo – it should have a different-sounding “tick” every time it gets back to the first beat. This will help bring your attention to the start of the bar. If you get to a new bar and it doesn’t line up with that louder tick, you’ll know you did something wrong.
This exercise is also slightly more demanding than the first two – you might need to go through and learn how to play it. Just go really slowly – once you can play slow and steady, turn on the metronome and give it a go.
Exercise no. 4: 16th notes
The fourth study/exercise is from Czerny, and it’s all about playing 16th notes with a metronome. It has a lot in common with exercise no. 1 – but the next level of difficulty. You could play each bar in a loop as many times as you want to get a hang of the rhythm.
How many 16th notes should fit inside each metronome tick? Four. These are harder to sync up with the metronome because there are so many extra notes between the beats.
It’s a good idea to start at a slower tempo – let’s say 60. Every set of four should be lining up with a tick. That’s why it’s helpful to play one bar over and over until you’re comfortable – then you can play around with different tempos.
I didn’t write in any of the fingering here, but the second bar is just a C major scale – if you’re unsure how to play that, check out the video on C major scale.
Exercise no. 5: Putting it all together
The final exercise is more of a tune than an exercise. It’s putting all the concepts into practice (except 16th notes).
Like the other exercises, it’s not super difficult – again, the point is to learn some simple pieces so you can devote ample attention to the metronome.
Watch that you don’t get overzealous with your 8th notes. One thing I often hear my students do is accelerate 8th notes so that they sound chunky. 8th notes ARE faster, but when you’re playing at 60 BPM, they’re not going to be fast. Try not to overshoot it.
Sometimes hands that are doing different rhythms can mess up metronome work as well. Make sure you can play this example with reasonable competency before turning on the metronome, or else you’re just asking for trouble.