A metronome is a device that produces clicking sounds or beeps at regular intervals. The user, generally in a Beats Per Minute (BPM) format, sets the interval time according to personal choice and requirements. Commonly used by musicians to play and align to a regular pulse, a metronome has important historical and musical significance.
Metronomes are used largely by musicians to practice their precision and timing, particularly their adherence to the required tempo. It essentially disciples the musician and acts as the standard reference for music composers to get the beats perfectly right.
However, it should be interesting to note, that even though it is used as a device to time and regulate music beats, musicians seldom play exactly on every metronome beat because musical time differs from a metronome time.
Besides its applications in music, metronomes also play an important role in speed and productivity training.
The history of the metronome, although informally has been used since the earliest times, but was formally recorded with Galileo’s discovery of a pendulum’s isochromium-- no matter the amplitude, the pendulum will take the same time to complete one oscillation (one revolution from point A to point B and back to A).
Despite the traces of the concept of the metronome being in this pendulum, the first-ever mechanical metronome is known to have been invented by Étienne Louilié in 1696. Official records of the invention are dubiously attributed to Johann Nepomuk Maelzel and Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel.
Following is an account of step by step progress made in the evolution of metronome based on the recognition of the necessities of those times and scientific advancements.
Historical Timeline Of The Metronome
Metronomes was an invention generally used by musicians, artists, and disciplinarians to perfect their timings. It was used in orchestra, opera, and plays beside the regular use in practice. It was used by individuals and produced by few, therefore it took a scientific headway to pave way for a mass production.
Franz Federick was the scientist who invented the electromechanical metronome which went on to become hugely popular and later began to be found useful in an array of industrial purposes right from guiding audio engineers to helping psychological tests. Instead of the quartz crystal mechanism of the mechanical metronome, this metronome went two steps ahead -- it was built on an electric motor-based mechanism and offered an optional feature of a neon light clicking in synchronization of the beats of the metronome.
This advanced form of metronome became the first version to be mass-produced whereas Yamaha and Franz became the leading manufacturers.
When we talk about modern metronomes, there is the electronic one, generally with a circular design that resembles a clock but with several markings. It is powered by a crystal quartz mechanism and is electronic as the name suggests, which makes the accuracy and precision far higher than the previous versions. These are advanced enough to produce tones that differ in different elements of music and are used in some of the high-tech music keyboards.
Then there are the soft versions of modern metronomes, the versions keeping pace with the changing times and being available to us on any of our digital screens, operating on our fingertips. These are available in either version that is available to the public free in the form of software and applications or models and packages that produce specialized sequencing of music and multi-tracks.
Over the years, metronome has gained immense popularity and some musicians just cannot do without them; their compositions are written specifically keeping the metronome beats in consideration.
With transformative evolutions in the technologies, various modern metronomes have emerged. People have turned to pocket metronomes and digital metronomes that can be used on devices such as the iPad, laptops, and phones for ease of use and convenience. Prerecorded sounds of these metronomes are available to make things easier and more convenient for beginners in the music industry. However, the criticism surrounding it is still strong and equally substantial. The rigidity of the beats is often criticized to cause a lack of emotion, thereby missing to articulately express the right pulses and grooves of music.
After centuries of its invention, metronomes are now also available in the online format, one of the most convenient versions, with an enormous range of features and highest of class precision.