Should I buy an electronic or
clockwork metronome?

The 'electronic or clockwork metronome' question is actually an easy one to answer in terms of functionality... but not necessarily in terms of aesthetics!

Electronic metronomes are better in every way! They are more accurate, they don’t need winding at sometimes incredibly inconvenient moments... and they cannot be over wound! Many have a choice of different sounds, often including actual counting, (although some clockwork versions have a bell on beat 1). Electronic models also offer flashing lights and variable volume (both useful as you can still hear your playing clearly) and they are smaller and more portable.

Electronic Metronomes

electronic metronome

I have an electronic metronome. You can see it has a speaker with volume control (and a headphone jack as well), an easy to use analogue dial for checking tempo with musical tempo terms, a flashing light and a built in tuner! As far as features go, there is no contest. If only you could just turn the dial to the tempo you wanted it would be perfect. However, it is still quick and easy to use and fits in my bag or instrument case easily. The only slight downside is making sure the battery doesn't go flat.

Clockwork metronomes

clockwork metronome on piano

Having given all those positive benefits of electronic metronomes, aesthetically I really prefer traditional clockwork metronomes! I know they aren't as portable, are far more fragile, often more expensive (especially if you buy one with a wooden case), need to be wound (although at least there is no battery to go flat) and if on a slightly uneven surface aren't accurate, but I just love the look of them. Maybe this is just nostalgia for my youth and the excitement of using my Dad's metronome, while trying to remember "It isn't a toy!" I see the same excitement from younger students in the music room at school as well when using the clockwork metronome. To that end I also have an antique clockwork metronome.
It sits on my piano.
I don’t use it...
but it looks lovely!

Conclusions: Should I buy and electronic or clockwork metronome?

So, in terms of whether to buy an electronic or clockwork metronome, not totally helpful I know! The question you really need to ask yourself when deciding on electronic or clockwork is "How concerned am I about the aesthetic qualities of my metronome vs usefulness/portability?" And only you can answer that - or do what I did and get both!

If you are looking for information on specific models of metronome including the amazingly excellent Peterson Body Beat metronome that allows you to literally feel the beat, click here for some practical reviews of different models that musician friends and I have owned and used.

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