Drummers have the role of being timekeepers for a band. That means that it’s their job to keep a steady tempo in everything they play so that the rest of the band can lean on them. If a drummer loses time, the band tends to lose time as well.
So, you need to develop a solid sense of time as a drummer. The best way to do that is to use a metronome when practicing.
Why Are Metronomes So Important?
Metronomes are one of the single most important tools in most modern music. Every song has a specific tempo that it sticks to and this tempo comes from a metronome. It will tell you how many beats there are in a minute. Some musical styles such as jazz don’t always rigidly stick to single tempos in songs. However, most musical styles do, meaning it’s important to become comfortable when playing to a click.
Every musician needs to be able to play along to a metronome click. Whether you’re a guitarist, pianist, or horn player, it’s a vital skill. However, it’s most important for drummers as the rest of the musicians will rely on them in a band context.
What To Look For In A Metronome
When looking for a metronome to get for yourself, it’s important to look out for a few things. The first thing would be practicality. How practical will this metronome be to your situation? If you intend to travel with it ferquently, a smaller metronome that is portable would suit you better. A big and clunky one would become a hassle to carry around.
There are many metronomes on the market that offer different practical features and functions. Some will be better for teaching while others are better for practicing. Some other practical features would be having a headphone jack for headphones or having the ability to change time signatures.
The metronome should have a durable design that will last many uses over the years. So, make a decision on how practical the metronome is before deciding to buy it. There are a few metronomes on the market that are specifically intended for drummers that have many practical aspects to them.
One important thing to look out for in a metronome is how it can be mounted. As drummers, we have huge setups with drums, cymbals, and hardware all around us. A metronome that can mount to that hardware would make life a lot easier for you.
This is even more important if you plan on using the metronome for live situations. Some drummers like to use a click track when playing live gigs, meaning the metronome will need to be part of their setup. If you plan on doing this, the metronome will need to be in a position that is easily accessible, allowing you to quickly change tempos between songs.
Not all metronomes can be mounted. It’s not the end of the world if the one you get can’t as it may have other features that are extremely useful. However, if it has great mountability, it will be a great choice of metronome.
Top 5 Metronomes
Boss DB-90 Dr. Beat
The Boss DB-90 Dr. Beat is one of the most well-known and widely used metronomes in the drum industry. It’s been around for so long that most gigging drummers would have seen it somewhere at some point in their drumming careers. It’s a solid metronome with many useful features.
The DB-90 four metronome sounds, including a human voice. It also allows you to heavily customize notes and values. This gives you a huge playing field when it comes to click track options. It has a big and bright yellow wheel that allows you to easily switch between numbers and settings.
Another great tool the DB-90 has is a built-in rhythm coach function. It has a microphone that picks up the drum sound and will tell you if you’re on time or not. The backlit display is very clear and easy to read, making it a great tool for live performances.
The note pitches of the clicks are very smooth to the ear. Some metronomes have tones that are too harsh or abrasive, stopping people from using them frequently. Overall, the Boss DB-90 is a great option for anyone who wants a metronome that is tried and tested. It’s loved by many drummers, meaning you’ll most likely love it too.
Tama Rhythm Watch RW200
Tama is one of the leading drum brands in the world at the moment. So, this tells you that the Tama RW200 Rhythm Watch is one of the best metronomes for drummers. It’s made by drummers for drummers. The RW200 is fairly similar to the Boss DB-90 Metronome in that it’s a light digital metronome with a wheel and several functions.
One of the best features it has is the ability to store up to 30 different tempos. This allows you to create setlists for gigs. You can play one tempo and then just press one button to move onto the next saved tempo for the next song. It’s a huge time-saver and it’s extremely practical.
You can buy a mounting clamp to go with the RW200 that makes it easy to mount to your drum kit. As said previously, this will make things so much easier to control when you’re playing live gigs. It will also just save you time in the practice room.
The click sounds that come from the metronome are fairly loud. However, you may need to plug headphones in if you want to hear them clearly while drumming.
The Tama Rhythm Watch RW200 is highly affordable as well, so you won’t break the bank when getting it.
So far we’ve looked at two very busy metronomes that have a large number of functions on offer. You may be looking for something small and simple that doesn’t include so many functions that you may not use. Enter the Korg MA-1. It’s a compact metronome that is designed to cover the basics and be portable.
It only has one click sound which is more of a beep than it is a click. It works perfectly for drumming as the beep will cut through a mix of drums, allowing you to hear it clearly when playing.
It has a tap tempo feature that allows you to tap in the tempo you want. This is great for figuring out the tempos of songs you want to play drums to. It also has a number of beat patterns to play along with. It turns off automatically if you aren’t using it, saving a lot of battery life.
You can change the subdivisions of the beeps to play more complex patterns. Overall, it’s a great option for someone looking for a really small metronome that can fit in your pocket. Pair this up with a practice pad and some sticks and you have a full-on compact practice kit.
If you want a Korg metronome that isn’t as compact, the KDM-3 is another metronome that they offer that caters to a different market of buyers. This metronome resembles the classic analog pendulum metronomes that every piano teacher had in their classroom for years. The tower aesthetic of it may be a cool option for some drummers. The metronome functions are digital instead of having the physical needle that ticks.
A key aspect of this metronome is simplicity. It has all the necessary buttons you’d need on a metronome without adding too many extra functions. The front of the metronome has a tempo wheel, buttons to change beats, and an LCD screen. Simple and effective.
There are 8 metronome sounds to choose from, meaning it has the most diverse range of sounds compared to the other metronomes we’ve mentioned. It also has 19 classic beat patterns to play along with. These include claves and triplets.
If you want a classic tower metronome, but need some of the newer digital features, the Korg KDM-3 is one very suitable option for you. It’s not the most practical metronome to take out on a gig. So, it would work better for home practicing and teaching.
Soundbrenner Pulse Vibrating Metronome
The Sounbrenner Pulse metronome is the wildcard on this list. It’s a watch that you strap to your wrist when playing. It vibrates the tempo instead of having an audible click track. If you’re not a fan of loud clicking when playing, this metronome is something to look into.
The metronome comes with two bands, one long and one short. The short band is intended for your arm while the long band is intended for your leg. Having a vibrating metronome strapped to your leg could really help you internalize time and kick drum patterns. Similarly, it will help when strapped to your arm and you’re playing hi-hat patterns.
The layout of the device is very simple. You just tap it to give it commands. Tap it three times and then start tapping the tempo you want. You can spin the wheel left or right to raise or lower the tempo. The device also has a phone app that you can link it to with more commands and functions.
This metronome won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it’s an innovative product that is well worth looking into. It could be used for home practice without the harsh sound of clicks or beeps.
Metronome Tips For Drummers
Metronomes are extremely important tools in growing your skills on the drums. There are so many things you can do with them that will improve your playing and provide a solid fundamental building point in your drumming. One of the best things to do with a metronome is to play slowly.
Playing slowly will reinforce your muscle memory. Your muscle memory will allow you to play fast patterns very comfortably. However, you need to first play slowly to get to that point later. Most drummers don’t like playing slowly, so it’s a discipline that you need to practice.
The first thing you should do when learning new patterns is to play them slowly along with a metronome. Anywhere from 50BPM to 70BPM is a good starting point. The best way to internalize a pattern is to play it at the slowest tempo for a few minutes and then increase the tempo slightly after a while.
Practice Everything At Different Tempos
Once you’ve played a pattern slowly and started to really internalize it, the next step would be to play it at different tempos. This is a very important thing to do with patterns as well as grooves. Patterns usually make up drum fills, so practicing them at different tempos will help you pull them out in any playing context no matter what the tempo is.
The most important thing you can do with grooves is to practice them at different tempos. A straight eighth groove may be easy for you to play, but can you play it comfortably at 200 beats per minute? If not, you need to work at it with a metronome.
Use Ghost Clicks
Ghost clicks are something that intermediate and advanced drummers use when practicing. A ghost click is when one of the clicks from the metronome is silent, giving you more space between the clicks and forcing you to keep the time yourself. This concept will improve your sense of time more than most other concepts.
You can change the amount of time before the next click comes. The more space there is, the harder it will be to keep time.
Work On Different Subdivisions
Switching between playing 8th note, 16th notes, and 32nd notes is a great way to practice. Metronomes are easier to play along to when there are more notes to listen to. So, practice some patterns with different click subdivisions to really get good at playing those patterns. You can also do 8th note triplets and 16th note triplets.
Every drummer should have a metronome. They’re more accessible now than ever thanks to technology. You can find many metronome apps and then connect headphones to your phone to practice with them. However, nothing beats having a physical metronome to work with. So, choose one from the above list if you don’t have one already.