Best Metronomes For Marching Band Rehearsal


Metronomes! I know, everyone’s favorite sound. Nothing says summer like piercing high pitch clicks in the distance. …Unless you’re in the battery in which case make that RIGHT BEHIND YOU all day long. Ah.. summer. Anywho..

In the world of marching band there are two metronomes that reign supreme: The Dr. Beat by Boss and TonalEnergy, a phone app available for iPhone and Android devices.

Dr. Beat vs. TonalEnergy

BOSS DB-90 (Native Device)TonalEnergy (phone app)
Heat ResistanceWill not overheat in the sunCan overheat in the sun
Rain ResistanceMust be protected from rainMust be protected from rain
Battery9-volt BatteriesYour phone battery
MemoryCan hold up to 50 tempos in memory and memory is volatile. If the battery dies it will be erased.Virtually unlimited memory. Memory is persistent.
Programming InterfaceDifficult to programRelatively easy to program and share your programs with others
VolumeCan achieve highest volumesStill loud but will not be as loud as DB-90 even over a PA
CostOver $100 newUnder $5

Heat Resistance

The DB-90 stands up to the heat the way your phone just can’t. However, since your phone fits in your pocket, it is relatively easy to shelter it from the sun during rehearsal.

Rain Resistance

Neither your phone or the DB-90 are water resistant. But it is far easier to shelter a phone from the rain than the DB-90 because of the size of the thing. It won’t fit in your pocket and typically what people do is have small garbage bags ready in case rain starts during rehearsal to cover the DB-90 and/or the PA speaker.

Battery

The DB-90 takes 9-volt batteries. You know what that means. You’re buying a ton of batteries. And those things ain’t cheap.

The big difference here is when your phone dies, you won’t lose the metronome programming stored by TonalEnergy where as with the DB-90, allowing the battery to die means the volatile memory will be erased and you will have to reprogram it. Not fun.

The secret to dealing with the DB-90 battery is to make sure to change the battery when the screen starts getting a bit dim but before it completely dies. And then make sure to switch out the battery in less than about 7 seconds. That is fast enough for the memory to be retained.

Often in my experience with DB-90 we had multiple DB-90s on hand with the show programmed in just in case one died. With TonalEnergy, that is a snap. You program it once and share it with as many other people who have the app as you’d like.

Memory

The DB-90 only has 50 slots to program tempos. That means if you have more than 50 tempo changes you have to use another one just to program your whole show.

WAIT…who the heck has 50 tempo changes in there marching band show???

Well actually, it’s not that uncommon. Because every time you have an accelerando or decelerando, you need to program a tempo for each beat that the tempo shift is happening. You can program every other beat to change tempo or any way you’d like but bottom line is it takes multiple memories for a simple tempo shift and that will fill up your DB-90 memories really quick.

TonalEnergy uses the nonvolatile memory on your phone so it doesn’t get erased and is virtually unlimited because it is such a small amount of data to store. ..Even if your entire show is one big tempo shift.

Programming Interface

The DB-90 is difficult to learn how to program. And it is difficult even once you know how. There are all kind of little secret tricks to learn to do it quickly. I knew people who were aces who could program a full show in 10 minutes during a water break. But for us mere mortals that would probably be a solid 45 minutes.

TonalEnergy also has a learning curve for programming your show tempos. But it is just far easier. TonalEnergy wins this round by a mile.

Volume

Despite what some people will tell you. No, your phone can’t be as loud as the DB-90.

Here’s why…

The signal strength is strongly influenced by the cable you are running between your metronome device and your PA speaker. And we all know we max out the volumes on those PA speakers during marching band rehearsal.

The shorter and thicker the cable is, the less resistance and the higher signal and overall volume you can achieve with the same amplification from your PA system.

The DB-90 has a quarter inch jack and the typical phone only has an 8th inch jack. That’s a thinner cable with more resistance. So you will never be able to achieve the signal amplitude of a DB-90 given all other parameters are controlled such as the length of the cable and the amplification from the PA system.

But…

Now that my rant is over.

It really doesn’t matter. The phone is still going to be loud enough. It only ever becomes an issue when the full band is playing together loudly. And there are some ways you can remedy that which I won’t get into here. Perhaps that is for another blog post.

In conclusion, the difference in volume is negligible.

Cost

No contest. DB-90 is pricey and you have to keep buying 9 volt batteries. TonalEnergy takes the cost trophy.

What you need in a marching band rehearsal metronome

The most important things in a metronome for your marching band rehearsal are programability and to some extent the type of sound it makes.

Programming the metronome for tempo shifts in the marching show does wonders for your band. It is well worth looking into if you don’t already do this.

As for the type of sound, ideally the sound should be very short and crisp and a bit high pitch. High pitch sounds are easier to hear over the band playing.

PA systems for Marching Band Rehearsal

The Anchor Audio Megavox is the most commonly used PA system for marching band rehearsals these days. They offer bluetooth options and most importantly they are “easy” to carry around the field with the handle or the shoulder strap.

It’s actually a very tough job but much easier than lugging around a more traditional type of speaker.

John Filippone

Hi, I'm John. I've been in the band world since I joined band as a french horn player in 6th grade. I played french horn through middle school, high school, and my first year of college before switching out of being a music major. I was all about band when I was in high school. I even made All-State as a french horn player my senior year. I also played jazz guitar but never quite made the all state jazz band. Growing up in South Texas, my high school had a competitive marching band program. And I loved it so much, I spent 6 years marching with Genesis Drum & Bugle Corps. Which was my local drum corps at the time. I played mellophone for 3 years in the corps and was drum major for 3 years. To this day marching band and drum corps is a big part of my life and I seriously regret selling my french horn and hollow body guitar!

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