Twelve Things You Don’t Know About Your Metronome

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Interesting facts, quotes and trivia about the metronome. Enjoy!

1.Metronome gives a consistent beat The metronome was patented in 1815 by Johann Maelzel (1772-1838). He described it as an “Instrument/Machine for the Improvement of all Musical Performance, called Metronome.” His design was suspiciously similar to an 1814 mechanical musical chronometer developed by Dutch inventor Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel.

2. The word metronome comes from the Greek words metron (measure) and nomos (regulating).

3. “Artists are going to be the metronome of society.” – Yoko Ono , artist, peace activist, experimental musician.

4. The metronome would not have been possible without the pendulum studies of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).

5. Flutist/composer Johann Joachim Quantz used the human pulse as a reference point for tempo, using a rate of 80 beats per minute. (Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen, 1752).

6. Beethoven was one of the first composers to use metronome markings, publishing a pamphlet giving metronome markings for his first 8 symphonies and the Septet, Op. 20. (1817).

7. “I am of the opinion that metronome marks go for nothing. As far as I know, all composers have, as I, retracted their metronome marks in later years.” – Johannes Brahms

8. A common skating rink tempo is 92 to the quarter note.

9. Franz Metronome Manufacturing company published a comprehensive treatise on ways to properly use a metronome. You can read it online.

10. “Never play with a metronome[…] the keeping of absolutely strict time is thoroughly unmusical and deadlike.” – Josef Hofmann, (1876-1957) pianist, composer, inventor, Director of the Curtis Institute of Music from 1927-1938.

11. Violinist Arnold Steinhardt (Guarneri Quartet) didn’t own a metronome until he was past forty years old. He wrote a funny and thoughtful blog post about it here.

12. “Maelzel will be espcially remembered […] by the Metronome […] As a man, Maelzel seems to have been quarrelsome, extravagant, and unscrupulous […] Had he possessed a larger amount of culture and of conscience, he might have done service to high Art.” The Year-book of facts in science and art (1856)

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