Songwriter Exercise 2 -
Set Your Songwriting Tempo
Understand Your Next
Song's Speed & Energy Level
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 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
"Step 1: Grab Your Metronome..."
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.]
- is “The total # of beats played in 1 minute (or every 60
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."
"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
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
on, AND between each tick...
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".
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
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
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."
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?
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
record the Tempo of your song.
“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
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