Updated: Apr 20
It’s time for a bit of transparency.
I used to be pretty relaxed with my use of the metronome as a piano teacher when I first started teaching. I considered it a “higher level skill” and waited to introduce it until my students were older.
Man, did I miss out on some GREAT teaching opportunities with this mindset.
These are 3 benefits I see from introducing metronome practice with even my 4 & 5 year old students.
Develop LISTENING skills. THIS. IS. MONEY. Students who learn to listen while they play become much better musicians, can play in a group, and are even able to focus for longer periods of time.
Help develop proper technique. My baby students ALWAYS want to fly through their pentascales, and it’s SLOPPY and their hand posture is AWFUL. I used to tell them to slow down, but students (5 or 65 years old) don’t stick to a slow tempo for long. Honestly, they also don’t have the muscle development to be able to slow down without a steady guide. I give them a slow, medium and fast tempo to practice at during the week, and after a month or two, their technique starts to pop right into place.
Improve their timing and rhythm. This kind of seems obvious, but rhythm and timing are a really important element of music. Teaching rhythm is much easier to do when your students understand the concept of a steady beat. Beats and time are abstract concepts for young children, and using the metronome when introducing these ideas helps to quantify those abstract concepts. They can hear 1 click for a quarter note, 2 clicks for a half note, and 4 clicks for a whole note.
So how do I actually start to implement the metronome into lessons?
I use the metronome during just about every lesson with my students. Normally it comes out when we warm up with finger exercises. We will pull it out to clean up songs, during rhythm instruction, or some other portion of the lesson, but they hear it during every lesson.
I give my students specific assignments that are to be practiced at specific tempos. I also email parents notes and let them know their child should be using a metronome during practice. **I recommend making a metronome part of your students "supply list" when they enroll. You can suggest free digital apps for them to download. This blog reviews a bunch of great options. However, especially with online lessons and young students who do not have their own devices, I find having an actual metronome sitting on the piano is very helpful in making sure students actually practice with it during the week. This is one option that we recommend to our students.
We practice using a metronome together in lessons. I have several new students who started with me in September, and are just now starting to be able to play along with their metronome 7 months later. One trick that has worked REALLY well as they were learning to listen and follow the beat is having them just sing along or clap along to the metronome without playing. It makes them stop and JUST LISTEN. Then we talk about matching our fingers to what we’re hearing. This skill takes time. Practice it every week, and they will get it with consistency.
Remember, learning to use the metronome is a skill that you need to practice with your students. If you use it regularly in lessons, your students will be comfortable to use it during their practice at home. And just because they struggle with it (or complain and say it makes them "mess up") doesn't mean to ignore this skill. Be consistent, and you and your students will reap the benefits!
Have questions about using the metronome? Drop them in the comments!