Welcome to the first Alexa Skill Spotlight. In this series, we’ll take a deeper look at interesting—and sometimes unusual—Alexa commands that third-parties have developed through skills.
For today’s post, we’ll review a very cool feature that helps musicians and everyone else alike in keeping beat. What is it, you ask? A metronome. Did you know Alexa works as a great Metronome? Let’s dive in.
What Is An Alexa Skill?
As a brief refresher, Alexa Skills are essentially Apps for Alexa that are accessed on your Amazon Echo, Echo Show, and other Alexa-enabled devices. The biggest benefit is with the growing marketplace of new features for you to use, as outside developers are freely able to add more functionality to Alexa by creating an Alexa Skill. And just like with Apps and App Stores on your phone, there is an Alexa Skill Store where you can discover all existing skills, along with their corresponding user reviews and ratings.
Since third-parties are developing these skills, sometimes the quality can range from super useful to unusual. For instance, I recently learned Amazon doesn’t have brand guidelines for Alexa signoffs.
While the Keeping Up With Alexa roundups are a good way to see the latest Alexa Skills, this series focuses on a wider range of skills that aren’t well promoted.
Now with introductions out of the way, let’s get back to metronomes.
What Is A Metronome?
For those who haven’t played a musical instrument, a metronome is a device that plays a tone on a set pulse. Keeping beat is pretty tough to do when playing music, so a metronome is often used to ensure music is played at the right speed throughout the entire song.
Metronomes are an old invention that is still regularly used today by musicians of all skill levels. Typically, Metronomes look something like this:
Here’s the cool part. Alexa is a better metronome than these old, clunky devices. Long gone are the days of setting up a metronome by hand. I’m now using Alexa for this—but not for playing music.
Broader Use For Metronomes
Gyms around my area have been closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Not willing to give up exercise, I’ve picked up a few workout routines that I can do at home.
But there’s one challenge with my new exercises. I need to count seconds. For example, with something like a pushup, I’ll need to stay in the “lower” position for 5 seconds, then the “upper” position for another 5 seconds. And I’ll need to do a bunch of these pushups during the course of my workout.
Turns out, counting out “one-one thousand” just isn’t cutting it as I can’t keep timings straight in my head. This is true especially when I’m tired as the workout progresses. I tend to start counting slightly faster, cheating on the exercise and ultimately limiting the benefit to myself.
That’s when an idea struck me. Could Alexa help me out here?
Alexa Timers are well-known to be useful, but less so for keeping track of less than 30 seconds. It simply takes too long to start a timer for just 5 seconds–I mean, just asking Alexa alone is, what, 4-5 seconds? What’s more, setting up multiple 5-second timers in a row is a huge pain.
Then I thought back to my music playing days when I was younger. I envisioned the trusty, old metronome. How could a device built for musicians help me with my workout? Pretty easily, actually. A metronome can be set to 60 beats per minute, which lets me count out seconds really easily. At the same time, I won’t need to reset Alexa every 5 seconds like I would with a timer.
With this new idea in mind, I headed to the Alexa Skill Store. Turns out, I’m not alone in thinking of using Alexa as a metronome. There are several skills already out there that claim to do just that!
Let’s check out a few of these metronome skills for Alexa.
Alexa Skills For Metronomes
Below are four Alexa Skills that turn Alexa into a Metronome.
Metronome Lite by Zhengbang Chen
After looking at several Alexa Skills, I landed on this one. Metronome Lite seems to be one of the simpler of the Alexa Skills out there. It also has more reviews than most with 18 in total.
But the rating is fairly mediocre with 3 out of 5 stars. In looking at the reviews, it’s clear as to why. Users are looking for more advanced abilities with more intuitive and simpler voice commands.
For my use case, this skill solves my problem perfectly. I get exactly what I want when using this command: “Alexa, turn on metronome light with 60 beats per minute.” Alexa responds with “OK, using Metronome Lite with 60 beats per minute,” and then I get a constant tone.
The tone only lasts for 5 minutes, which may not be long enough for all users, but it’s plenty of time for me. If I need to, I can just ask Alexa to start again after 5 minutes.
If you’re looking for a simple metronome that gets the job done, this is the skill you want. I highly recommend it. However, if you’re looking for more bells and whistles, take a look at the next option below.
My Own Metronome by Semidigitali
When looking for metronome skills in the Skill Store, My own Metronome is listed first. This is largely due to the stellar 4 out of 5 star rating. This skill also has 6 reviews—not too bad considering none of the competitors have more than 20 reviews.
But activating this Alexa Skill is tricky, as the activation name isn’t ideal. Using the command “Alexa, open my own metronome” feels clunky to me. After you setup the skill, though, there is one big benefit. The skill saves your settings so you only need to use this command in order to start the metronome.
This skill does provide some other advanced functionality that other Metronome skills don’t have. You can change the metronome sound itself and change the “beat length.” Not all metronome skills have these abilities. Moreover, the skill doesn’t have any premium features, so don’t worry about getting charged. The skill also doesn’t have any special ratings, so it doesn’t ask for private information like your email.
And just like with Metronome Lite, this skill will only last for 5 minutes. After that, you’ll need to restart it.
Although I didn’t first gravitate to trying this skill initially, and I’m not a fan of the skill name, I do agree it has much deeper functionality than the others. The ability to save your settings over time is a big win for me. And being able to change the metronome sound is icing on the cake. I’ll be switching to this skill going forward. Sorry, Metronome Lite.
Metronome Pro by AI-Summers Media
Reader note: There are two different Alexa Skills with the name Metronome Pro.
AI-Summers Media creates this version of Metronome Pro. It has zero reviews and no ratings. By upgrading, you get access to a nonstop loop and a larger range of beats. Though, other skills will give you the same range of beats for free.
A nonstop loop is pretty unique among Metronome skills. If you need something longer than the traditional 5 minutes, this may be your only option.
Metronome Pro by The Kansas Street Company
Here’s the other skill called Metronome Pro. This skill does have a premium feature, and upon further looking, is the only reason why you would choose it over others. The premium feature is called “custom sequence,” and it allows you to record and play your own beat. If something like “beats per minute” doesn’t work for you, this skill might be a better option for you.
But when you compare the other, non-premium features of this skill to the others in the list, you’ll quickly be disappointed as there’s nothing else to really write home about. The metronome also defaults to an annoying popping noise, which sounds like a bubble popping.
Have you enabled any of these Alexa Skills yourself? Would love to hear your experience in the comments below.