I am currently a beginner at the piano. I know using the metronome is important, but I I'm feeling reluctant to use it often, as it is difficult for me to get the music coordinated with the clicks.
Is there any tips on how to get used to it?
Make Sure it doesn't become a crutch:
The most important thing about practicing with a metronome is to avoid becoming dependent on it. It is a tool that can be used to strengthen your rhythm and time when used properly, but if you overuse it, you might become uncomfortable playing without one because the machine is creating the pulse instead of you.
As a tool for improving your rhythm, you can do the following:
When you say you have trouble playing on the beat, this is something that needs to be fixed. You want to be able to play with near-perfect computer-like rhythm and then add flexibility in expression after that.
Then, as a next step, once your rhythm is very solid, you can set the metronome to larger beats (say one beat per measure). Top musicians who have expressive flexibility in their rhythm will still have a very solid larger beat. This technique is also good for finding sections in which you tend to rush or drag. If you finish the measure before the metronome, you are rushing. If you finish after the metronome, you are dragging. Some metronomes can't do this because they don't get slow enough, but with a computer or a Dr. Beat you can set it to only beat the first beat of each measure.
You can also do things like having the metronome on off-beats and/or subdivisions instead of the downbeat. For example, you might start a section or piece of music in-between the metronome beats so the metronome is on the second eigth note subdivision and not on the first. You can use your imagination for variations like triplets and sixtinth note subdivisions.
Learn Rhythm Away From Your Instrument:
Lastly, if you find staying with beat hard, practice the rhythms away from your instrument with clapping (This is particular important as a Beginner). This allows you to focus on the rhythmic problems at hand without the complication of notes. If you have issues on a particular measure or rhythmic, you can clap that particular rhythmic or beat over and over again a little bit each day until you get it. This is a very important practicing technique: reduce the problem and work on the simplest possible manifestation of that problem first (If you a programmer, think of this as divide and conquer).
You might also trying walking around the room with each step being a beat in sync with the metronome, and then clapping the rhythms while doing that. The end goal here is to internalize the pulse and rhythms as much as possible (This training idea comes from Eurhythmics and is generally very effective).
Since, as a piano player, you have to play multiple rhythms at once, you can extend this by walking with the beat, doing one rhythm in one hand by hitting your chest with that hand, and the other rhythm in the other hand by hitting your chest with that hand as well.
Practising to a metronome is a great way to strengthen your natural timing, forcing you to implicitly correct yourself and over time work those timing corrections into your natural playing, but if you're a beginner it may be a little too much right now.
Before you learn to play well, you need to learn how to play in the first place so if you're struggling with learning a new concept, part or song, it might be prudent to leave the metronome off at first. Once you have it under control, flick on the metronome and tighten it up. Remember to play it slow first, then speed back up to the tempo it's normally played at (or if it's just an exercise, a goal tempo).
Once you can play it solidly, have a half hour break, come back and try playing without the metronome. Chances are you will probably notice a difference, if small. I find this to be a motivator for continued practice.
Oh, and remember to take regular breaks while you're practising. The brain likes to let things sink in!
Play at speeds that are slow enough where it's fairly easy to coordinate. If you can't find a meaningful tempo like that, don't use a metronome - your technique is not yet ready.
Don't hesitate to go waaaaaay slow. Virtuosos commonly practiced at snail's pace. Rachmaninoff was famous for slowing his practice down to where the piece he was working became unrecognizable even to a fellow concert pianist.
It also tends to help a lot if you get familiar with the physical sensation of rhythm outside of music. Stand in a drum circle once for the fun of it - it's the best rhythm training money can't buy.
If you can, use a human metronome.
If you have a friend which can play with you, ask him to mark beats by playing or clapping. It is often more pleasant than the sound of most metronomes. And you can switch roles. Having the responsibility to give the tempo to someone teaches you a lot. Accept that it will not be perfect at the first attempt and that you are communicating through the rhythm.
Try playing to a recording or a backing track. This helped me out a whole lot, as its both a) more interesting than a click track, and b) easier to follow, because you're "playing along with the music", which - for me, at least - comes much more naturally than listening for the click/beep of a metronome.
There are several ways of using the metronome. You can try this out: practise your scales, licks, transcribed solos, exercises, etc., on the beat per measure. That is, whole, half, 8th, 16th etc. For instance, when you have your metronome set to 70BPM, you can apply any of the above mentioned beats to it. This is a good way of using your metronome to practice; it enables you to play at the speed you have always desired.
If you find the music hard to coordinate with the clicks, you should definitely use a metronome.
Start slow, very slow, and take care to play every note correctly and on time. Then start increasing your speed while keeping time. When you start at high speeds, you tend to gloss over details in timing.
If you plan to play with other performers (singers, guitars, violins) you need to get the timing down. It's very hard to play with someone who doesn't hold the pulse of the music.
Don't use a metronome, unless you wish to end up like rest of today's modern performers who bore with outer clean sterility and perfection, whilst missing every single opportunity for expressive phrasing, and musical communication.
Have a look at these quotes. And read "The Metronomic Performance Practice: A History of Rhythm, Metronomes, and the Mechanization of Musicality" (by Alexander Evan Bonus).
The last part of the title should already send shudders of disgust down your spine: yes indeed - today we have managed to mechanize musicality, preferring sterile outer perfection, to human inner intuition.
If you wish to be a true musician, break out as soon as you can, and start using your intuition instead of conforming to a machine, and ignoring that you have a living soul.
Good luck, and please don't tread down the road that every conservatory professor and other conforming stiff institutionalized loonies and performers have gone down... before you.