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Songwriter Exercise 2 - Set Your Songwriting Tempo

Understand Your Next Song's Speed & Energy Level

Do you understand what songwriting tempo is?

"Tempo" is the speed of your song. It's is a number that tells "how fast" (or "how slow") your song is performed in a stretch of time. Every song has a specific speed, but most songwriters don't consciously set tempo when songwriting.

Songwriting is a creative, artistic process - not a calculated one.

But if you are new to songwriting, its important to have structure in the beginning stages so you can maintain a level of focus.

And even though setting your song's speed is more of an intuitive process of songwriting, it's important to understand the effects different song speeds have on your listeners.

 

"Step 1: Grab Your Metronome..."

[Download and install Dirk's Metronome will help find your songwriting tempo. on your computer (at your own risk). This free program - created by a guy named Dirk - allows you to set a BPM and listen to the tempo.]

BPM - is “The total # of beats played in 1 minute (or every 60 seconds)”.

A watch or timepiece runs at roughly 60 TPM - that’s 60 "ticks per minute", or 1 tick per second!

 

"Step 2: Look at a watch or timepiece...one that has a 'seconds' hand ticking."

 

...Just an image of a watch face, to help you understand Songwriting tempo.

 

"Step 3: Count, “1…, 2…, 3…, 4…”, and then repeat."

Out loud (yes out loud), I want you to count each time the "seconds" hand ticks, in groups of four (4). And each time you count, I want you to gently slap your thigh with your hand.

...A closer image of a watch face, to help you understand Songwriting tempo.

Congratulations!!!! You're now a junior drummer, tapping at 60 Beats Per Minute!

Many professional songwriting moments began with songwriters doing exactly what you're doing right now; tapping your thigh...rocking-out to the beat. But I'm curious...are you starting to feel the beat? Are you starting to feel the energy-level of this tempo?

 

"Step 4: Try this... tap at 120 BPM!"

120 BPM is twice as fast as 60 BPM, so tap your thigh on, AND between each tick...

Tap once on - and between - each tick to understand a 120 BPM tempo.

You are now tapping at 120 beats per minute. The "tap" between numbers - between each beat - is called the "upbeat"...the "tap" on the beat is called the "downbeat".

Notice how each tap feeds energy into the next - there are less pauses - creating a sense of continuous, strong/sharp events. Also notice how your own energy has increased. You use more energy; you're more active. This is what happens to people when they listen to songs with faster tempos.

Faster BPMs give your song more energy and supports stronger/sharper emotions.

 

"Step 5: Now tap at 30BPM."

30BPM is half as fast as 60BPM, so tap on every other tick...

Tap once every other tick to understand a 30BPM tempo. Tap once every other tick to understand a 30BPM tempo.

Now you're tapping at 30 beats per minute.

30BPM is an extremely slow tempo. Notice how there’s much more space between each tap; more pauses between each event. It’s almost like your energy is being pulled or stolen away from you. Now imagine how slow songs affect your energy. You're less energetic...more calm.

Slower BPMs create an emotional pull that support deeper/enduring emotions.

 

"Step 6: Use your metronome and find a speed that supports your target emotion."

This is a picture of Dirk's Metronome. Simple huh? Use it to find a songwriting tempo.

If you're using Dirk's Metronome, slide the weight up or down the virtual bar and press start (w/speakers on so you can hear the "tick"). Depress “start” to readjust the weight. Just feel out a tempo you like and then notice its BPM.

Remember, songwriting is all about communicating emotion. So we must continue to support your target emotion by finding a song speed that feeds it's energy.

How much energy will best support your emotion throughout your song?

100+ BPM Gives energy to your song; 100-BPM Pulls energy from your song.

For my friend's songwriting project, I decided to compose her song at 70 BPM. While 70 BPM is slow, it isn’t too slow, and will help make sure my combined emotions (bitterness & pain) cause more of an emotional pull.

Now on your Songwriter Copyrighting Sheet, record the Tempo of your song.

Final Word:

“Finding your songwriting tempo is important because it affects the amount of energy your song has to push (or pull) your target emotion. Let's continue with your next songwriter exercise, songwriter dynamic."

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