Tempo In Music
Tempo is the speed of your song's beat pattern. It's a number that tells "how fast" (or "how slow") your beat pattern plays in a minute, measured in "beats per minute".
Every song has a specific tempo, but most songwriters don't consciously set tempo during the process of songwriting. But as a beginner, it's important to have an idea of it to maintain focus in your songwriting.
And even though setting your song's tempo is more of an intuitive process of songwriting, it's important to understand the effects different tempos have on your audience's emotions.
Understanding Beats Per Minute (BPM)
Beats per minute is "the total # of beats played in one minute (or every 60 seconds)". As a comparison, a clock's 'seconds' hand has the same tempo, at 60 TPM (i.e. "ticks per minute") or one tick per second.
Step 1 - Find a clock or open a clock app on your mobile device or tablet. You'll need one with a "seconds" hand or one that counts the seconds.
Step 2 - Each time a second ticks by, starting at one, count to four (i.e. "1..., 2..., 3..., 4..."), and then repeat." Try to count out loud while tapping your foot or lightly slapping your thigh to feel the tempo.
Congratulations! You're now tapping at 60 Beats Per Minute! Many songwriting sessions begin with songwriters doing exactly what you're doing right now.
Step 3 - Next, try tapping at 120 BPM. What do you think that'll look/feel like? 120 BPM is twice as fast as 60 BPM. So count 1-4 like before, but tap your thigh on AND between each count.
The "tap" between each count is called the "upbeat", while the "tap" on each count is called the "downbeat".
Notice how there's more energy when tapping at 120 BPM because there's less silence/space, creating a sense of continuousness. You're more active for this tempo.
This is what happens to people when they start feeling the music sync with rhythms with faster tempos. The faster tempo gives your songmore energy and encourages stronger/sharper feelings from your audience.
Step 4 - Now try tapping at 30 BPM. 30 BPM is half as fast as 60 BPM, so follow the clock and count like normal, but tap on every other "tick".
30 BPM is an extremely slow tempo and not really useful for modern songs. But notice how there's much more time between each tap; more silence between each event. It's almost draining your energy.
Now imagine how slower songs affect your energy. You're naturally less energetic and more calm. Slower tempos create an emotional pull that encourage deeper/enduring feelings in your audience.
How much energy does your song need?
Again, figuring out tempo is usually automatic during the songwriting process. It's based on which emotions you're targeting. But it's important to understand how it affects your audience. So a loose rule can be:
- Tempos greater than or equal to 100 BPM = Add Emotional Energy
- Tempos less than or equal to 100 BPM = Pulls Emotional Energy
How To Set The Perfect Tempo Every Time
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Updated: April 3, 2020
If you were writing a song right now, would you write an up-tempo or one? Why? Post in the comments below.
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