So I am working on developing a decently unique metronome app. One of my goals is to optimize the sound that the metronome uses as much as humanly possible. A goal would be that the sound be easily heard over someone playing an instrument, and also be as loud as possible. So when it comes to the attack, decay, timbre, etc. what should I consider when making the sound effect I will use for the metronome? What do you think would make the ideal ticking sound for a metronome?

Thanks much!

  • You might consider allowing the user to choose from several sounds. Personally I don't want a metronome to be too loud or piercing. I like a more mellow click sound. My favorite metronome sound is the kind that wind-up hardware metronomes make. My ideal digital metronome would just use a sample of that sound. But everyone has their own preference. Nov 15, 2015 at 6:18
  • 1
    Seconded, @ToddWilcox My ideal metronome is actually a simple kick/snare/hat pattern. After that would be a traditional clockwork metronome. Those bink bonk electronic ones that drive into your skull like having a clave 2" from your ear drive me insane.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 15, 2015 at 14:27
  • OK so i should probably have optional sounds. But I know plenty of people who would love a sound that could be heard over playing your instrument even if it doesn't sound super pretty.
    – J.Doe
    Nov 15, 2015 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


The thing with a metronome, is you want it to keep rhythm, but you don't want it to influence the music in any other way. That's why a 'tick' sound is used, it's a simple time-keeping sound as opposed to a backing track.

You will get users who prefer a certain sound for a metronome tick, some like beeps, some like hi hats, etc. Some like a different sound to signify the start of a bar(downbeat), some don't.

Any general metronome 'tick' should comprise of high frequencies, to separate the sound from the average frequency range of commonly played instruments and it's amplitude envelope should have a very short attack phase, and a short decay, to make it a precise tick.

The best thing to do to satisfy everyone, is to add features enabling the user to either select their own stored samples, record new samples or select from an in-built set of commonly used samples to use as bar and/or crotchet ticks.

Another thing to mention is the visual element, a mechanical metronome's visual pendulum swinging is a good visual cue to the player, it can help the player with expressive playing by anticipating the ticks. I don't know how detailed you want this app, but it would be a plus to visualise the pendulum swinging motion in some way.

Overall, I think as with most apps of this kind, what will make it a great app is the ability to customise it, to make it perform the way the user would like.

  • Good call on the visual element. Depending on the screen space for an app or device, it could work to have a pulsing flash or some other visual cue that isn't necessarily anything like a pendulum motion. Or again, multiple visual options, which would be a feature I haven't seen before in metronome apps and might really distinguish it. Nov 16, 2015 at 15:26

Something described as "percussive" often has a strong transient, yet a short decay, and a fast attack. Sometimes a long release, such as for cymbals or some snares. How piercing it is depends on how strong the transient is (and you can adjust that using a Transient Shaper, by the way) and where in the frequency spectrum that transient occupies.

FL Studio uses an 808/909 rim shot sound for its metronome. It's not badly piercing, and yet its transient is pretty easily heard over the rest of the music. The decay is also short so that it doesn't interfere much at all with the rest of the instrumentation.

Of course, the attack should be fast because you want the metronome to be precise, not late. Longer attacks = later downbeat.

The timbre should be fairly nonresonant in the midrange (the frequency range where a set amount of absolute gain introduces the highest perceived gain in loudness) so that it doesn't hurt, but it should also, again, have a strong transient so that it can be easily heard over the loudest of songs/pieces.

So in general, metallic "thips", 808/909 rimshots, and the like are generally pretty useful for metronome sounds.

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