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metronome (mĕˈtrənōmˌ), in music, originally pyramid-shaped clockwork mechanism to indicate the exact tempo in which a work is to be performed. It has a double pendulum whose pace can be altered by sliding the upper weight up or down. The sliding bob indicates the rate of oscillation by means of calibrations on the pendulum. A number to indicate the rate at which the metronome is to be set and a note whose value is to equal one beat of the metronome are often given on a piece of music, preceded by the initials MM, for Mälzel's Metronome—Johann Mälzel (1772–1838) having made in 1816 the type of metronome in general use today. Beethoven and Schumann left such tempo indications for many of their compositions, but for earlier music and often for later music such indications are those of the editor. A pocket-watch type of metronome was developed in the 1940s; a boxlike electric metronome has also become popular, as well as digital metronomes.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an instrument for aurally ascertaining the basic time values of the meter (Takf). Metronomes are used to attain the precise execution of the tempo of a musical work.

Instruments similar to the metronome were first made in the 17th century. The modern metronome, which was perfected by the Viennese craftsman J. N. Maelzel and patented in 1816, consists of a wooden pyramidal case with a scale of units, a mainspring, and a pendulum with a sliding weight. The oscillations of the pendulum are accompanied by a strictly even ticking. The number of oscillations per unit of time depends on the location of the weight. To set the metronome for the necessary number of ticks per minute, the weight is placed opposite the appropriate figure on the scale. The metronome is also used in physical culture exercises and laboratory experiments.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a mechanical device which indicates the exact tempo of a piece of music by producing a clicking sound from a pendulum with an adjustable period of swing
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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