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I ordered a pretty standard mechanical Wittner metronome, the cheapest I could find plastic/no bell. But after I ordered it I realized there are metronomes that have a bell, so it got me thinking about if I should've gotten one with a bell. :/

A bell is used to accent the first beat of a 4/4 time, 3/4 time, etc. But I'm still iffy if it's needed in practice. But what are some situations where this could help vs a normal metronome that only has tempo?

  • Always better with a bell. – Tim Jul 28 '18 at 16:25
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Different people have different feelings about how to use a metronome.

I personally don't like the bell when I'm using a metronome, and always turn it off. I think its usefulness is limited, since I don't think that the best use of a metronome is to teach you how to count measures.

Metronomes are best used to make sure that your tempo in a piece is consistent, not speeding it up in some places and slowing it down in others. This is especially useful when slow practicing to learn a piece; it's very easy to speed up easier parts and slow down harder parts as you are learning, and these changes can be hard to unlearn as you speed up your work.

The metronome tick should also be seen as a fairly rough guideline. Music naturally speeds up and slows down, has pauses, and so on, for dramatic effect. Too strict adherence to the metronome makes the music dull: if a critic calls your music "metronomic" it isn't a compliment!

  • so theoretically is there a use for the bell? why would someone need to know when a measure starts. – foreyez Jul 30 '18 at 15:05
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    It depends on whose "theory" you're using. The use for a bell is to tell you when beat 1 of a measure occurs. I don't find that useful, personally; I don't need the help and the bell is distracting. It might be useful for complete beginners who haven't yet internalized a count, but I wouldn't recommend using it to my students. – BobRodes Jul 30 '18 at 15:34
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A bell reminds you where ONE is - in music that sticks to the same time signature throughout anyway. But if you're playing sloppily enough to get a whole beat out you don't need a bell, you need to practice slower.

There are free 'apps' that will do everything the Wittner can, and more. But there's something nice about a mechanical device, isn't there! :-)

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    It doesn't have to remind you where ONE is, in the same way that you can use a metronome to have the click in between beats, heck, whatever you want. But most would use it initially to help with beat ONE. It's also useful for players starting on 5/4 time. – Tim Jul 28 '18 at 16:11
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    I want one of these! wittner-gmbh.de/metronome_tiere_e.html – Laurence Payne Jul 28 '18 at 16:16
  • I worry about you! Would you like my psychiatrist's number..? He's good. Says he'll have me cured in less than 20 yrs. – Tim Jul 28 '18 at 16:19
  • The Wittner models with bell seem to offer 2, 3, 4 and 6 divisions . Not 5. wittner-gmbh.de/pdf/maelzel_gebrauchsanleitung.pdf – Laurence Payne Jul 28 '18 at 16:20
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    I'd forgotten about that, but now you mention it, it does ring a bell... – Tim Jul 28 '18 at 16:29
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Actually I find electronic metronomes much more convincing. They frequently offer lots of choices, not only emphasizing the first beat of a bar, but beyond the normal second level also a third level for triplets etc. Single-step beat increment is easy. They also provide a knob for volume adjustment, a headphone plug or an optical-only mode, just flashing LEDs. So the disadvantages boil down to requiring batteries and needing some effort to choose to find the most convenient device (maximum volume is an interesting property).

  • yes but electronic metronomes have no soul – foreyez Jul 30 '18 at 9:09
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Absolutely do not get a mechanical metronome, other than as a piece of art for your studio.

Aside from the flexibility of electronic ones -- some can provide all sorts of sub-beat accent patterns --- there isn't a mech in the world that doesn't lose its symmetry on the slightest tilt to its base, or when a little dirt sneaks into the guts.

  • I disagree, I just got my mechanical one and I'm completely sold on how useful this is. It's like a little drummer beside my instrument, I love it. I like watching the pendulum swing. – foreyez Jul 30 '18 at 15:02
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    @foreyez You still need to take Carl's point into account. Try tilting it a little to one side and watch the effect. Then see if you can get the click to be absolutely accurate. It isn't easy. Also, don't love it too much. Nobody else wants to hear your "little drummer" when you're playing for them! – BobRodes Jul 30 '18 at 15:36
  • @BobRodes this is mainly for practice. I'm thinking for performing/recording to get a soundbrenner pulse which is a silent metronome watch that vibrates. – foreyez Jul 30 '18 at 17:14
  • @foreyez I would repeat that "metronomic" is not a compliment. :) I wouldn't use a metronome of any sort in performance, any more than I would go bike riding on a bike with training wheels. Metronomes are good for spot checking your internalized ideas about tempo, and are not good for keeping your sense of tempo for you. – BobRodes Jul 30 '18 at 17:16
  • @BobRodes that's a good point probably ditch it when I get more advanced we'll see. – foreyez Jul 30 '18 at 18:24

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