Teaching Rhythmic Skills with the Metronome

World Piano Pedagogy Convention Notes

Notes by Brent Hugh
Assistant Professor of Piano
Missouri Western State College Department of Music

These notes are part of our Piano Pedagogy curriculum.

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Why use metronome?

Why not use metronome?

How to introduce the metronome?

Playing with metronome and the associated rhythmic skills (keeping a steady beat; synchronizing with an outside beat) are skills that can be learned and taught. You must teach these skills, though--just telling a student to "practice this piece with the metronome" usually doesn't work.


  1. Clap/clapback
  2. Chant words of student's pieces
  3. Simply count out loud in different meters and at different tempos ("1 2 3 1 2 3 . . ." or "1 2 1 2 1 2 . . ."). This is very difficult for some beginning students.
  4. Clap rhythm from student's piece
  5. Clap & count (or tap & count if hands have independent rhythm) rhythm from student's piece


  1. Note Game: Teacher chants, "C 2 3 Play; F 2 3 Play; A 2 3 Play" etc., in time with metronome. Student must play the given note EXACTLY on the beat when you say "Play".
  2. Reverse Note Game: Start metronome; play a note. Student must chant name of note in time with metronome as long as teacher plays that note, i.e. "C C C C D D E E F F F F A A B B C".
  3. Flashcards: Line up several note flashcards; start metronome. Count "1-2-3-4". Student must play each note flashcard in order, allowing exactly four counts for each note. Over several lessons, increase speed and/or reduce number of counts ("1-2-3" then "1-2" then just "1"). Goal: At least one card per second.
  4. Reverse Flashcards: Line up several flashcards. Start metronome. Count "1-2-3-4". Teacher names a note on "1", student must point to correct answer exactly on "4". Variation: Teacher plays the note instead of naming it.

You can, of course, invent dozens of games along these lines. They make learning basic skills more fun. At the same time, the student is learning to keep a steady beat and to synchronize motions and actions with an outside beat.


Playing pieces with metronome

Students who don't already have the skills necessary to play with metronome will give up in frustration if you suddenly ask them to play a whole piece with metronome. Take a step-by-step approach.






Practical teaching considerations



  1. Write down the metronome assignment, including exact tempo(s).
  2. Make sure the tempos are practical for that particular student playing that particular piece (don't guess--have the student try it at that tempo).
  3. Beginning students usually do best with tempos in the range 80-120.
  4. Make sure to follow up the next week--have students play for you the assignment you gave them, exactly as you specified it.