This article will explore the best BPM detection/metronome plugins in 2023.
BPM (beats per minute) detection plugins often fly under the radar. You may not realize how useful they are, but I’m sure all of us have spent plenty of hours trying to guess or identify the tempo of a song, loop, unlabelled stem (pff), or acapella file. The following plugins are the best at identifying time, keeping time, or even identifying a song’s key, chord progression, and mode. So let’s dig right in!
Top 6 BPM Detection & Metronome Plugins 2023
1. Tal Aviram TICK Metronome
TICK is a metronome plugin designed by Tal Aviram.
It’s a self-contained metronome, meaning it can run everywhere, from your DAW as a plugin, to your phone or as a standalone app. It’s also fluid in terms of tempo and time signature, making it ideal for all types of musicians needing a tempo clock. An example of a 4/4 time signature at 155 BPM inside TICK. You can also see the possible accents included on this page.
TICK comes with a lot of different sounds you can use as a click track. The examples below are just a few of the ones included in the plugin.
You can input your own samples inside TICK and use them as a metronome. Below are a few examples of samples uploaded inside TICK.
- Professional and functional
TICK has already received plenty of love from professional musicians. It’s been used on stages as a metronome and was designed specifically for live performance use. TICK is also highly functional and portable since it saves your audio samples as presets, which can be imported to laptops or smartphones. Finally, your control over the rhythm and tempo is another thing that makes TICK a standout. You can set different tempos across any time signature you can imagine.
- Custom sounds
The most underwhelming part of a metronome, at least for me, is the annoying and distracting preset sound it comes with. It makes tracking a recording feel unnatural or distracting for some people. This is precisely why TICK included the ability to fully customize the click sound of the metronome. You can choose between various options, but most importantly, import your own samples. Then, any sound you can imagine can be used as a metronome.
- Lowpass filter and extra features
Another unusual feature in TICK is the addition of a lowpass filter. The makers say this feature was included so that you can tame harsh metronome sounds and make tracking a recording feel easier. They also tease new features to come soon, like an Ableton Live link feature for more accessible live performances, drag & drop functions, and plenty more exciting features.
TICK is available on Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.11 or higher, Linux, Android 4.1 or higher, and iOS 9.3 or higher in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
TICK feels like the Rolls Royce of metronomes. There’s pretty much nothing it can’t do those other metronome plugins can, and it has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Including customizable clicks and sounds is a huge plus, and the addition of the lowpass filter is inspiring. However, with plenty of new features to be announced soon, I don’t see any other metronome rivaling TICK.
2. MeldaProduction MMetronome
MMetronome is a free metronome plugin by MeldaProduction.
MeldaProduction is known for providing us with high-quality free plugins; MMetronome is another example. It’s a simple but effective metronome plugin that provides both visual and sound feedback to the producer.
One of the most valuable features of MMetronome is its visualization system that provides instant feedback to the producer. It includes time-based graphs and meters to aid you and keep you informed about various parameters, including tempo, beat, and time signature. Of course, you can also choose to disable the visualization if you wish.
- Tempo tap and speed
A handy feature to have is tempo tap. It allows you to feel the tempo of a song and then start producing around a fixed value, rather than choosing a tempo and committing to it for no reason. It’s also useful when you reference tracks and want to know the tempo of songs you love. MMetronome has a straightforward tempo tap feature that will check the boxes above. Finally, it includes a speed menu where you can slow down or speed up your chosen tempo. This will help you experiment with different tempos and hear how your song would sound in them.
MMetronome is available on Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
MMetronome is a simple and effective metronome plugin to have in any studio. Some of its major assets are the no-cost value, tempo tap feature, and speed customization function. I’d recommend MMetronome to all bedroom producers in need of a trusty metronome that doesn’t require them to blow their wallets.
3. Teragon Audio BeatCounter (Free)
BeatCounter is a beatmatching plugin designed by Teragon Audio.
Beatmatching is a technique DJs use to bring the song they plan on introducing to the mix to the same tempo as that of the song currently playing.
This ensures a seamless and smooth mix. BeatCounter is a beatmatching plugin catered mostly towards DJs and electronic artists playing live with a band or vinyl records. The idea is that it will help you get a reading of the band’s or vinyl’s tempo so that you can mix in other elements (sequencer, Ableton Live patterns) seamlessly.
- In-depth control
BeatCounter offers a few different parameters you can tweak to achieve an accurate reading on tempo. First, there is a frequency knob that will help you filter out high frequencies. This means that the software will focus on lower frequencies to get its tempo reading, which is where the kickdrum operates. Since it’s designed for DJs and sequencers, it’s mostly accurate with Techno or House music but gets a bit inaccurate with complex drum patterns. The tolerance knob will help you fine-tune the response of BeatCounter. If the Beat light is not flashing in time with the music, then try increasing the tolerance knob. It will make the software more sensitive to the kick drum and will pick it up easier. Finally, the period knob decides how many seconds should be considered before making a tempo reading.
- Perfect live performance tool
If you’ve never performed with a band as a DJ, let me inform you how stressful and challenging it can be. You have to be insanely experienced and fluid with beatmatching or pray for the best. A plugin like BeatCounter will help you get a reading on the tempo of the band’s music so that you can introduce elements through your sequencer, laptop, or whatever gear you have that makes sense musically and rhythmically. It can also help you when you DJ on your own but want to play some records on vinyl. The functionality is endless.
BeatCounter is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats. However, it’s worthy of a mention that this software is no longer updated or maintained, so it will likely not be compatible with newer macOS versions.
BeatCounter is a handy tool to use when performing live with other performers. It’s an excellent beatmatching tool that will help you get mostly accurate readings of drummers, bands, and vinyl records’ tempos so that you can easily focus on your performance without the stress of being out of time.
Since it’s designed for DJs and four-on-the-floor style beats, it may be inaccurate on songs with odd time signatures and complex drum patterns, so keep that in mind.
4. HoRNet SongKey MK4
SongKey is a key and tempo detection plugin designed by HoRNet.
The way SongKey works is very simple: you load it in your DAW, and it will listen and analyze your chosen audio to read its key and tempo. It can also read chords, something extremely valuable for when you collaborate with other artists/musicians and need to work with unlabelled stems.
- Chords and key
SongKey will analyze the audio you’ve chosen and provide an accurate reading for both the song’s key and the chord name. For example, if you choose to analyze an 8-bar chord progression, the key section will show the progression key, while the chords section will show the chord name in real-time. In addition, a keyboard will provide feedback and highlight the keys played, something useful if you’re not a music theory fan. Finally, SongKey can do all these through its key identification algorithm, which uses artificial intelligence and will always give you accurate readings.
- Midi output
SongKey does more than just identify the chords of your audio. If it did a reading, you could export it as a MDI file, meaning you now have access to it in the purest form and can modify it, change the chord voicing, play it in different instruments, and change the key, literally anything you want. It also includes real-time tempo detection software, which will be helpful to any producer.
Some of the extra features SongKey includes that deserve mention are the resizable GUI which looks awesome in any size, the ability to analyze acapella vocals for key detection, and the Standalone app it comes with. Finally, SongKey is exceptionally cheap, especially considering what it can do. It’s almost a steal.
SongKey is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher in VST, VST3, AAX, and Standalone formats.
SongKey is the ultimate tool for key detection. If you are remixing a song, sampling a record, or working with unlabelled stems, this plugin will save you time and effort. It’s also perfect for those who are not musically trained and can’t identify a loop’s key or chord progression.
Finally, the addition of MIDI output for analyzed chords is a very inspiring touch. I highly recommend it to anyone who works with audio files and spends a lot of time trying to identify the key of a piece.
5. Long’s Metronom (Not VST)
Metronom is a simple metronome application by Long Sound.
Metronom has very few features but works exceptionally well. It’s a very straightforward piece of software with an appealing graphical interface. It works as a basic metronome that keeps time for you to play live with.
- Tempo setup
You can easily set your ideal tempo value inside the beats/min box. Once you do so, the blue and red lights will flash in time to signify the speed of the tempo. There is also a tap box where you can tap your ideal tempo. This is perfect if you already feel a certain rhythm and have a sound in your head but don’t know exactly which tempo value corresponds to your idea.
- Metronome sounds and interface
Metronom has a few custom sounds that can function as a metronome. You can choose them through the dropdown menu on the top right corner of the interface. The interface is designed to resemble an old-fashioned clock, something that’s appropriate since we are dealing with time. It’s a clean and tidy look.
Metronom is available on Windows and macOS.
Metronom is highly functional and can be used to provide a rhythmic accompaniment to your performance or practice sessions. It’s not a VST, so you can’t load it into your DAW, but it’s perfect if you are a guitarist or instrumentalist who needs a click to practice.
6. AlexHilton A1 TriggerGate (Free)
A1 TriggerGate is a rhythmic and sequenced gate plugin designed by Alex Hilton.
This plugin was designed to add rhythm and life to all sorts of sustained sounds. The rhythmic gated sound started in electronic music and became famous through Trance music of the 2000s.
Nowadays, it’s everywhere; it even dominates Pop music. TriggerGate aims to make this effect accessible to everyone with its no-cost value and simple interface.
On the top of the interface is a 16-step sequencer with two rows of blocks. The first row highlights the volume of each of the 16 steps. You can drag up or down the wide fader in these blocks to adjust the volume to your preference. On the underneath blocks, you can set accents and choose between short step, long step, no step, or step link by tapping them. There is a mix knob that will blend the gated signal with the dry signal to achieve parallel processing. You can also select the length of the pattern and whether you are setting up sixteenth notes or triplets.
- Envelope and more tweakability
There is an envelope inside TriggerGate which will control the amplitude of each step. If you increase the attack, each step will have a “ducked” feeling, while decreasing the sustain and decay will give you a “plucky” feel. There is also a section on the right where you can observe the waveform and modify parameters to fine-tune the timing of your gate effect. You can tweak the makeup gain, swing, short step, long step, and time -/+ values.
TriggerGate has a few effects, which Alex Hilton says are meant to be simple additions that fine-tune the sound, rather than effects where you spend hours tweaking to get something good out of them. For example, there is a lowpass filter for cleaning up your sound, a drive effect for adding harmonic distortion, and an echo/delay effect with a ping pong mode.
A1 TriggerGate is available on Windows and macOS.
A1 TriggerGate is a straightforward and functional rhythmic gate effect. The step sequencer is easy to use and offers plenty of rhythmic options, while the envelope adds another touch, control, and depth to this free plugin.
The effects add a nice creative aspect to the sound design department, and the overall interface is clean and easy to understand.
BPM detection software may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when searching for plugins to buy, but they can easily be some of the most used and time-saving plugins you’ll ever own. We all need a tool that saves time from guessing and trying different tempos to integrate loops, samples, or stems in our productions.
This list is meant to guide you through the best options for BPM detection plugins and offer a few more ideas on what’s possible with utility plugins. So use it to get inspired and integrate the most appropriate plugins into your workflow.
Alvinos Zavlis is an artist/producer from Cyprus based in Bristol, UK. With three albums under his belt and plenty of singles, his catalogue covers a wide range of sounds, from hip hop and trip hop to IDM and experimental electronic styles, all fused together to create unique blends of sounds. He works as a freelance mixing and mastering engineer in Bristol for artists of all styles.