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A metronome is a practice aid that sounds or displays beats at the tempo it is set to. There are two basic types: mechanical and electronic. Most music accessory stores and online vendors carry a wide selection.
Traditionalists often prefer mechanical metronomes. They are built much like an old-fashioned clock. They are powered by a wound mainspring and their main moving part is a notched metal bar with a movable counterweight. The user winds the mainspring, sets counterweight to the notch in the bar corresponding to the desired tempo and starts the bar swinging. Then, powered by the mainspring mechanism, the bar swings back and forth at the tempo set, while the mechanism sounds the beats in a "tick-tock" fashion. Wittner is one of the main brands and they are very good.
Electronic metronomes accomplish the same thing, only using flashing lights and electronic beeps to sound the beats. They are generally smaller and less expensive than the mechanical units and they may also be offered in combination with other functionality, such as metronome/tuner combinations. Seiko, Korg and Matrix are some of the big brand names, but there are others. There is also an online metronome available.
Uses: People use metronomes to help them keep tempo when practicing. If playing from sheet music, a musician might set the metronome at the tempo indicated on the sheet music to insure that he is practicing at the tempo the composer intended. Metronomes are also useful for practicing rhythm and for improving speed. A player may set the metronome at a comfortably slow tempo when first learning a piece of music and then step up the pace incrementally to force himself to gain speed.
Authored by: Mandolin Cafe
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