top of page

How a Metronome Taught Me to Break Free From Limitations

Growth comes from challenging limitations and embracing the flexibility that exists beyond pre-programmed structures.

As a youth, I was fascinated by metronomes. I suppose I still am. 

My duet partner's monstrous electric metronome possessed a fantastically loud click with an accompanying flashing light. Sitting prominently atop her tall mahogany upright piano, its presence filled the space and guided us to play in synchronization. My childhood metronome, a battery-operated handheld metronome with a central knob, paled in comparison. Though I’ve never owned one, I’ve also been mesmerized by the wind-up metronomes with swinging pendulums. 

Image of old school pendulum metronome on a pile of sheet music on the floor next to a guitar

A Long Way from Pre-Programmed Speeds

Metronomes have come a long way since my youth. Not only are they available for free as downloadable apps or online resources, but they can also increase the tempo by one beat per minute at a time. Old school metronomes increase the tempo by between three and eight beats per minute, ex. 69, 72, 76….116, 120, 126, etc. I’ve practiced so many hours with those older metronomes, that I still have the numbers memorized. 

As a youth, I didn't love playing with a metronome because it held me accountable to playing hesitation-free in difficult passages. Learning to master those passages with metronomic accuracy was a tedious but important task not easily understood by youth. 

Thankfully, I’ve matured since then and now appreciate and even enjoy working with a metronome. Now, when I practice, I almost always use the metronome, especially when working up a new piece of repertoire. I find great satisfaction in moving the notches up bit by bit while doing speedwork. The ritual of writing each newly accomplished tempo marking on the top of the page brings a sense of accomplishment to the day's practice session.  

Today when practicing, I set my metronome for one of those pre-programmed numbers, 104 beats per minute. I thought I was ready for that tempo as I was easily able to perform the piece at 100 beats per minute. Yet, 104 beats per minute was still a touch too fast for me evidenced by sloppy playing. 

Then I realized that due to modern technology, I didn't have to stick within the limitations of the old-school metronomes. I could, to my surprise, practice the piece of music at 102 beats per minute. Or, heck, 101 beats per minute!

Picture of sheet music on the piano with a modern metronome

Beyond the Click: Rethinking Our Tools

How ironic– a tool designed to limit my tempo inconsistencies, in its newest versions, now provides me with opportunities to practice at tempos that were once in between.  

I mistakenly allowed myself to live in the limits of the past, instead of the limitless opportunities of the present.  

As a musician, I'm no longer confined by a set of pre-programmed metronome speeds. Now I can move up or down one beat at a time if I desire. (Though I wouldn't always recommend it, but that’s for a more technical post on how to use the metronome.)

With this realization, I laughingly wondered how often I still live according to old programming in other areas of my life. Where in life am I missing out on life because I still live within limitations that no longer exist? I know this is an odd analogy - learning how to live outside the bounds of limits through a tool designed to keep somebody on track. But for me, there's an important lesson.  

Quote graphic with white background. Text reads: "Leave the past's limitations behind; live in the present opportunties.

Finding the Middle Ground: Break Free From Limitations

My lesson learned? It’s okay to release former programming if it no longer serves. Life can be lived outside former limits.

The theme of the past few years of my life has been one of deprogramming. I’ve been rethinking the usefulness of the tools, systems, and beliefs that once ordered my life. Like a metronome, marking out when and where to play, until the age of 39 my life fit the given script. One day I realized I could no longer live at that “tempo” and needed to make a change. Since then, I’ve been learning to live at my unique tempo– one that fits my needs instead of the manufacturer’s. I’ve gone on to discover my greatest joys when living outside former limits– in the middle  ground, somewhere between 100 and 104.  

Shaking the tendency to return to those preprogrammed tempos and ways of living will take intentionality, knowing my needs through observation and tapping into my intuition, and practice. (The same can be said of finding the appropriate metronome speed.) I’m excited to see what life can look like away from those former arbitrary limitations and in the fullness of all the opportunities in between


Food for Thought:

Observe the way that you move through life in regards to your daily habits, thought patterns, and beliefs. 

Are there new ways you could explore living and being? Could you find a middle ground in places that previously did not exist? 

Envision how it would feel to explore living life in between and beyond formerly set lines. I encourage you to give yourself permission to experiment with stretching and expanding outside of your former limits. You never know what you may discover and what joys will meet you as you learn to live life at your 101 beats per minute ! 


To have these "Insights From The Piano Bench" essays land directly in your inbox, subscribe to my monthly blog digest newsletter. Let's explore what music can teach us about life together. 

If you are looking for additional support and encouragement in your musical journey, check out Notes to Self: A Guided Mindful Practice Journal designed to bring mindfulness and celebration to your practice sessions. 

Are you an adult musician looking for community with other adults actively pursuing the skill of mastering an instrument?  If so, you are invited to join my Facebook Group, Notes to Self Musical Community: A Supportive Group for Adults. I hope to see you there!


If you’ve been practicing on your own and struggle using a metronome, I can help you with that!  

It is my true joy to bring the joy of music into hearts and homes through personalized remote piano lessons that will leave you feeling inspired and accomplished. 

The process is simple:

1. Schedule a call to talk about your goals.

2. Select a lesson time.

3. Take your first lesson! 


bottom of page