Free Software Metronome – via mp3s on your iPod

The metronome is a feared tool, generally thought to be only for classical players. However, it can be very helpful for building harmonica technique. Below is a free software metronome, comprising mp3s which run on your iPod or mp3 player Of course you use a normal metronome, They retail for around $30, and the newer electric ones are the best.

However metronomes can be difficult to hear when practising harmonica, beacuse the harmonica sound is close to your ear (unlike a guitar or piano). It is better to listen to the metronome through a headphone (also, you are less likely to annoy your friends while practising!). Below you will find a free metronmone which plays through headphones, via a computer or mp3 player. Dowload these files:

60 to 90 beat metronome
90 to 120 beat metronome
120 to 150 beat metronome

Create 3 folders, called 60 beats, 90 beats and 120 beats. Extract the metro60 file into the 60 beats folder, the metro90 file into the 90 beats folder, and the metro120 file into the 120 beats folder. If you have trouble with this, then ask a friend with computer expertise to help.

When done, you will notice 30 tracks in each folder. If you have an mp3 player, then import these folders to it. Otherwise, import the folders to your computer media player. You now have a metronome. The track named “61” in the 60 beat directory is two minutes at 61 beats per minute. “62” is two minutes at 62 beats per minute and so on. Similarly, the track named “91” in the 90 beat directory is 91 beats per minute, the track named 121 in the 120 beat directory is 121 beats per minute.

I load the folders on to my iPod, turn each one into a playlist, and can then practice anywhere, adjusting the metronome volume on my headphones without disturbing others (assuming that they don’t mind my scales).

A few words about metronome practice. Firstly, avoid tapping your foot, and focus entirely on the metronome beat. This can be difficult at first. A good starting point is to choose a harmonica pattern you can play easily, set a slow metronome speed, then persist until you can play it perfectly. This may take longer than you expect, but the effort is very worthwhile.

Finally, you should practice some scales with the metronome (more about this in the practice page). The simple truth is this. If you cannot play a clean scale at a given metronome speed, then you will not be able to play anything else properly at that speed. In particular, bluegrass fiddle tunes (my main focus) generally lie between 120 and 140 beats per minute. Hence I have spent much time practicing scales and other patterns in this tempo range. Whatever style you play, time spent with the metronome will help you play it much better.