There are TONS of metronome apps on the market right now, but rather than sift through all of them I’ll give you the skinny on the best ones. Not one app is going to be perfect for everyone so the list includes the best overall metronome apps spanning all platforms. This is a bit of a review article, but mostly it will just be concerning specs, options, and performance. Only the best three apps will be analyzed because when you get into the thick of the metronome app market they become pretty general and equivalent. You should consider downloading all three of these apps and seeing which works best for your needs, but this article will base things on a few different areas of use so hopefully some light will be shed on your needs too, whether they’re field band, drumset, or just practicing.
($3.25, or free non-pro version)
At $3.25 for the unobstructed pro version, this app is the most expensive on the list. The non-pro app has ads and they put the ads in the best possible place for them to be accidentally touched, right below the play tempo button. The free version won’t limit you when it comes to BPM settings and rhythm options but it won’t count your measures or save your preset settings (like songs and setlists). Overall this is a simple app that isn’t extremely visually appealing but does get the job done. With options like a timer, tempo modification over time, or cutting current tempos by a percentage, you will find different ways to practice effectively. The sound options are a bit narrow but you can customize certain default sounds to your liking which is a nice touch. However, using it at any sort of rehearsal will be limiting because of its simplicity. To change from one tempo to another in an instant is impossible, so you have to swipe or add/subtract 5 to reach the second target tempo. The $3.25 price tag for this basic app is definitely a lot on the high end, as you’ll see below you can get a better app for a smaller price. This app is ideal for someone in the practice setting where simplicity is key and you don’t need tons of crazy options.
($1.50, or free non-pro version)
This metronome app is half as expensive as the previous metronome and is much more appealing to the eye. For a while this was the best app you could get on Android because of its ease of use and high quality. This app works fine using the free version but it’s definitely recommended to upgrade if you choose to continue to use this long-term. This is a good mix between a practice and rehearsal app, although changing to specific tempos in rehearsal will still require a stop/start action but you can seamlessly change tempos while it is playing. The app will show you an elapsed time as it plays through the beat so you can time certain reps, phases, or practice sessions. One of the bigger drawbacks to this app, which the other two on this list allow for, is the screen options: there are none. It will continue to play your beat when the screen is off but you won’t be able to see your elapsed time without stopping your instrument and turning your screen back on. Speaking of options, there actually are none at all in this app, it cleverly displays all of the options on the screen, which makes it much easier to use than other apps. This metronome also includes a cool vibrate button which allows you to feel the beat (supposedly through your pocket) but the drawback is that your phone may not be as sensitive to the vibrating frequency, meaning your phone’s vibrate might not be as even as the beat you hear, it also doesn’t quite line up with the beat you hear and see either. The features of this app and the layout of the buttons definitely make this a great metronome app for most people, which is why it is number two on this list.
($1.25, or free Lite version)
This is the best app across both Android and iOS platforms (new to Android), it is the cheapest option, and it is the most powerful option too! As a matter of fact, this app wins in pretty much every category, starting with visual appeal. It is set up in such a way that the buttons are in the most efficient place possible, assuming most users will be right-handed the play button is in the bottom right, where your thumb will use it easiest. The tempo edit buttons are also right next to Play so you can modify everything with only your right hand on your phone – even scrolling through setlists. Most apps make you set the time signature with two separate options, but this app just shows you a list of thirty time signatures to quickly choose from (though using a simple 1/4 option always seems the easiest). The app also knows to set a dotted quarter-note as default in 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 time signatures. All of the options above are scored with a common unfortunate trait of having to hit the “X” to close the menu after every selection, realistically the menu should close when you’ve made your selection or (if I can be picky) when you touch outside the selection area. Besides those silly details we come to the powerhouse of this metronome app: The setlist. When you’ve plugged in all your settings and push the Save Song button, you can name it and it’ll appear in the setlist menu. This means switching tempos in the middle of a song is a dream! Does your group have many time signatures and tempos in a single song? No problem, just save each tempo and options as a song! (Better yet, the tablet version allows you to save groups of songs into a set so that you can have a Warmups tempo folder, a Songs tempo folder, or even a different folder for each song.) As said before, this metronome app wins in all aspects such as keeping the screen on while playing, diverse sound selections, and one option that none of the others even dream of called “AirTurn“. AirTurn is a footswitch that allows you to change between setlists without using your hands. This is perfect for guitarists who already have a pedalboard, but great for anyone trying to practice (or even perform) songs without interruption. Airturn connects via Bluetooth and is battery powered so you can use it anywhere your feet go! This is just one more reason why this is the number one app for metronomes.
All this talk about using your phone’s metronome at rehearsal and you’re still lugging around a physical met and a fifty-foot instrument cable? Learn about an even better way to use your smartphone or tablet metronome at rehearsals by reading the “Wireless Long Ranger Metronome” article.