Human beings have this knack for tricking ourselves into believing we have something all figured out. One of the biggest obstacles this little quirk presents to musicians is that we don't always have the beat figured out. We slow down or speed up when it’s convenient. We may even cut beats out of a song entirely, usually remaining blissfully unaware of the fact.
A metronome is the silver bullet cure for this problem. Be warned, though; it’s your worst enemy as well as your best friend. The metronome won’t be reasoned with and won’t stop making it painfully obvious when and where you’re butchering the rhythm.
Sound like a pain? It kind of is, but metronomes ultimately fine tune one’s sense of beat and makes your rhythm tighter and more precise. As they say, no pain no gain.I prefer a mechanical metronome with a wind up crank for general practice. Sure, electronic ones are a bit cheaper and a metronome app will do in a pinch, but having the visual advantage of seeing the pendulum conduct you as well as the satisfying tic-toc (as opposed to a harsh beep or phony sounding woodblock) makes it seem more soothing somehow.
Jason Campbell is a voice coach and piano teacher who blogs about all things music at IvoryMan. Book a lesson with him on The ZOEN or follow him on Facebook.