Choosing the best drum metronome is dependent on many factors, such as the size of the unit, the ability to use it with headphones, and the ability to divide beats into smaller constituent parts. Drummers should also consider the user interface of the device, with simplicity being generally regarded as a positive. Some metronomes also display the beat being produced using an LED light which blinks in time. This is useful for visual learners, and can also be used to test the drummer’s inherent sense of rhythm. Top-quality drum metronomes also start the first beat of a bar with a different tone, to provide an “accent” that can be recognized by the drummer.
The biggest factor in choosing a suitable drum metronome is whether the drummer will be able to hear it over the sound of acoustic drums. Potential buyers should look for units that either support use with headphones or that feature a loud speaker. Acoustic drums cannot be made quieter without the addition of cover pads, which most players do not use. This means that a drum metronome with a poor speaker will be essentially useless because it will be inaudible. Cheaper metronomes may feature a headphone jack to combat this issue.
More expensive drum metronomes will often start the first beat of a bar with a slightly different sound. This is a good feature to look for, because it allows drummers to keep track of the beginning of each bar. Drum beats are generally structured according to bars, and the accentuated beat gives drummers a valuable reference. This can be particularly useful when the drummer is learning a new part and needs to be reminded when a new bar starts.
A digital drum metronome is preferable to a mechanical one for most players. While mechanical metronomes have a more recognizable appearance, digital units are generally easier to operate and more accurate. The pendulum on a mechanical drum metronome can provide a non-audio cue for the beat, but some digital ones also include an LED light. This light blinks with each beat, providing a cue not dependent on sound. This can be useful for drummers who don’t have headphones or for those who want to test their time-keeping abilities.
Players use a drum metronome because they have trouble keeping their playing on time. Metronomes that are able to split individual beats into eighth and sixteenth notes are therefore preferable for most players. This can give drummers a more precise indication of when they should be hitting a certain drum. Again, this function is particularly useful when learning a new drum beat.