Playing with a metronome is a vital element in the bagpipe learning game. But, how do you play with a metronome while also playing your pipes? Typically, the volume of your bagpipes will completely drown out the piddly sound of any metronome, no matter how grand.
The best way to do this is to wear headphones connected to your metronome while piping. I do this all the time. It's easy.
But, in order to be able to work with a teacher on your rhythmic playing while using a metronome, or to record yourself piping along with the metronome, things get tricky.
The best way to do this is to amplify the metronome. But how? And, how much will it cost?
But First... A Few Things That Don't Really Work
It's tempting to try to find a workaround to this problem - here's some common ones:
"I'll just use the blue tooth speaker from the game room."
First off, Bluetooth speakers are usually still not loud enough! Second - you really are going to want your speaker to be built in to your practice space. If you always have to go to the game room, move the speaker, fiddle with the blue-tooth settings, etc, every time you practice - you're never going to use that metronome. Got me?
"I'll just run my metronome through my smart TV."
Same as above - if it's not built into your practice space, you won't use it more than a couple times.
"I'll just try my computer speakers."
This could work, but it's very rare to find computer speakers that will go loud enough to actually be useful when playing the pipes. Computer speakers that are loud enough will likely cost far more than a guitar amp.
Which leads us to...
Biting the Bullet and Getting an Amp
You're going to want at least a 15 watt guitar or keyboard amplifier. Make sure it's NOT a Bass Guitar Amplifier (although, if you have a bass amp laying around, give it a try and tell us how it goes!)
After a quick search online, I found a Rogue 15w amp that didn't break the bank.
I try to buy new things so that my purchase has a warrantee and all that. Here's a bunch of businesses that have great reputations:
- Musician's Friend
- Guitar Center
- (PS - just google what you want and shop!)
With that said, here's a bunch of things to try if you want to try to go SUPER cheap:
- Reverb.com is a great used gear site.
- Try Craig's List.
- Try Facebook Marketplace
- Try eBay
Next: Hook Metronome to Amp Using Cable
The challenge is to go from your metronome's headphone jack into the amp. Headphone jacks are eighth-inch in diameter. Amps are designed for quarter-inch audio cables. You'll want at least 3 feet of slack on the connecting cable.
So what do you do?
Type this into Amazon: 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch 3ft audio cable.
Something like this will pop up:
This will be all you need to connect a typical headphone jack to your amp.
What Metronome Should I Use?
This one's easy. If you've got a smartphone, simply use any free metronome app. There's a million great ones.
Just remember, if you have a modern iPhone like me, you're going to need one of those super-annoying adapters to connect the headphone-jack end of your cable to your phone. So, add that to your shopping list (Thanks, Apple....)