Metronomes are the little taskmasters that the undisciplined among us, including me, dislike. We fruitlessly complain that the metronome must be slowing down, not me. It tells us the truth about the bits we haven't really come to grips with, so we fudge the time. If you play or sing by yourself, you can get away with these indiscretions; with a group you eventually have to work to get it right. Here is where the metronome becomes a blessing.
I will soon be performing a choral piece that goes much more quickly than I realized. Suddenly the words and notes are all over the place. What to do? Start slowly with the metronome, and gradually work up to speed. There is no way around it; it is that or be an embarrassment to myself. The little taskmaster goes bip bup bip bup and allows for no slacking.
I used to have a pretty little mechanical metronome. It was the kind with a weight that slides up and down an arm to set the speed, and the arm ticks back and forth. It was cute and had the reinforcement of the moving arm. However, it was prone to getting tired as its little clockwork spring ran down and, if set on a slant, went tick....tock tick....tock tick. I think I spent more time playing with it than using it. Tim's electronic one will divide up your beats into hysterically complicated subsets if you want - I don't! I have heard that there are even several metronome iphone applications, including one that features a little Asian lady. Tim is very good at using a metronome, as you might imagine, because orchestra music is orders of magnitude more complicated than anything I might undertake. His theory is that practicing makes you enjoy playing more. Hmmm.... not a bad idea that. Back to the metronome!