I am teaching piano to a 10 year old using the Suzuki 1 book. This child has no problem maintaining tempo when singing. Is it better for the child to use metronome to keep the tempo during practicing (she slows down during more complicated passage) or will using metronome can be counter productive to developing inner beat?

I would like references from music pedagogical literature on similar age group kid learning an instrument in the first few years.

Addendum: I should clarify that she has no problem playing the more complicated passages (having practiced them for weeks), but she still slows down and is not aware she does that until I points it out to her. I also tried playing together with her, which helps, but obviously we can only do that during the lessons.

  • You have, in a way, answered your own question. She slows down during the more complicated passages. So its not the timekeeping, its the finding the notes that she is struggling with. Tims answer hits the nail on the head
    – JimM
    Apr 2, 2020 at 20:44
  • @JimM Perhaps I should clarify that she has no problem playing the more complicated passages (having practiced it for weeks), but still slow down and not aware she did that until I pointed it out to her. I also tried playing together with her, which helps, but obviously only during the lesson. Apr 2, 2020 at 20:56
  • That's some proof of what practice - repetition - can do. She's learned to slow down at that point through doing it lots of times! Now she needs to 'unlearn' the slowing down!
    – Tim
    Apr 3, 2020 at 6:10

5 Answers 5


We've all slowed down during more complicated passages! Chances are she doesn't need a metronome to keep time. She just needs to play the better known parts a little slower!

Metronomes have their place - although in 60+ yrs of playing and 50 odd yrs of teaching I've never been compelled to use or advocate use of one. With a fairly good sense of rhythm and tempo keeping, I'd say don't bother. Other teachers may well disagree - let's wait and see. Only when someone is wandering all over tempo-wise might it help, and I believe those players are rare. Playing to a metronome is, to an extent, soul destroying - literally to a degree, as unless it's dance music, it will fluctuate - and should fluctuate. Rant end!

  • 2
    I feel this isn't enough for a full answer, but I think having the metronome click on only every bar rather than every beat, is a good compromise between rhythmic accuracy and freedom/expression.
    – awe lotta
    Apr 2, 2020 at 18:19
  • @awelotta - seems like an opportunity for another answer.
    – Tim
    Apr 2, 2020 at 19:06
  • Thanks for your 2nd opinion. I myself think the same way in my 40+ yrs of playing. @awelotta's suggestion is excellent and I would prescribe it only to be used to verify once in a while (every 2-3 days). Apr 2, 2020 at 20:22

We can argue about how to use the metronome while learning a piece. But once you feel you HAVE learned it, I see no possible objection to checking that you can play it at a constant speed.


I would say that your student slows down because she has a problem with the theory, technique, coordination or fractions of that passage. A metronome could make things worse as it would force her to keep the tempo at the risk of sacrificing or glossing over something which could become hardwired improperly. A dozen lessons in theory, physics or math is order.

On the issue of metronomes . . . I advocate jogging. Our bodies have a wonderful sense of timing built into our two legs. We only need to do our practicing while walking or jogging. Keeping time is more about feeling, going with and resisting gravity. It is already within our bodies which we can transfer to our brains (heart and soul). It doesn't need to be trained, only uncaged. It is our birthright. It is often muscular tension which gets in the way of timing and even playing.

Piano playing is not something separate from life or the laws of physics. They are all one and we are merely the conduit unless . . . there is a break somewhere.

  • Wouldn't a desire to move our arms to facilitate walking or jogging get in the way of playing the string instrument better? I know I jog/run faster if my hands aren't in my pockets, regardless of how cold it is. If I were to play the violin or ukulele while jogging, I'd think the arm swinging or temptation to would get in the way.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 3, 2020 at 13:01
  • You're probably correct, but the rhythm would at least be steady. Apr 5, 2020 at 15:17

My thoughts on the matter are that metronomes are useful when practicing exercises and they probably help develop a feel for rhythm, but when performing a piece of music, we should be allowed to play what we feel and sometimes that may mean slowing down or speeding up. Don't get me wrong, I think uniformity can be an important skill, but I think flexibility and feeling certainly have a right to respect in our music also.


I have the same problem slowing down. I know what my problem is and more than likely hers. It is when I get to notes that I'm not as familiar with. I slow down to try to see what the notes are and their value. Although I practice the music for weeks. Maybe if you make sure she is very familiar with the notes she slows down on and have her study them more, she won't slow down and will be more confident.

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