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Tempo: an under-appreciated and subtle factor in songwriting
20 October 2014
6.57pm
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Funny Paper
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The tempo is the pace of the song -- how fast or slow it is.  One way to measure it is to think of hitting the beats on a drum (or snapping your fingers or tapping your foot).  Each song is slightly (or sometimes markedly) different in tempo from other songs.  I propose that this makes a crucial difference to the song quality and the enjoyment for the listener.

I also think that good songwriters have an innate or intuitive ability to know, when they are first creating a song, what the "right" tempo is for the song they are creating.  And if they are good musicians (as the Beatles were), they are able to find that right tempo and actually put it into practice with their instruments as they begin to concretize the song.

I know this from personal experience as a songwriter myself.  I don't quite know where this sense of tempo comes from; I just know it comes to me and I usually know what the "right" tempo should be for a given song I write.

P.S.:

I recall an amusing scene from the movie Let It Be where Paul, George and Ringo (John was not there at the time) were playing around doing "Long and Winding Road" in a much faster tempo than normal.  It was interesting and rather comical (though amusingly Paul began to show visible annoyance after a while and wanted to stop, while George and Ringo seemed to be having too much fun...).

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20 October 2014
10.01pm
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MOCKSWELL
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 Yea. Until demographic studies were done, searching for the most efficient dance beats. (WhumpWhumpWhump) at 128 beats or whatever... that toe-tapping beat. Drum machines were fun in the seventies, now they are like poison in the bloodstream of any real musicians.

 Hmmmm, think I'll write a song. Should I use pattern 270... or the brisker, snappier pattern 236? With or without the little hand-claps? Ha. Try to get a drummer to sit there and change speeds when you twist a dial, they won't do it. )

21 October 2014
3.57am
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Funny Paper
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@Mockswell, I could never understand the technical aspects of tempo (or of most things musical).  I just kind of wing it when I write songs.  Spending years playing Latin percussion probably helped.

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Oudis

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21 October 2014
11.46pm
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MOCKSWELL
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 Oh I know. People are supposed to make music for other people, that's what it's for, that's the fun part, that's all pop music is for. The machines aren't evil, only the people exploiting them.

 Vocals by Microsoft Sam. Song written by the TuneHakk program.... drums by Dr. Rhythm. No wonder everyone round here is so dim, dis music is gotta be bads for der brains!

22 October 2014
10.02am
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I remember when on a lark, I first played Santana's song "Waiting" at 16 r.p.m. (slowed down on my turntable) -- I was surprised at how sloppy all the percussionists sounded -- two conga drummers (Michael Carabello, Chepito) and a drummer (Michael Shrieve) -- no longer in tight perfect synch like they sounded in real time, but clunky and off-beat, it seemed.  I later realized that what makes human drumming special is precisely a bit of imperfection woven in as a continual propensity in freedom, which machines can't replicate.

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Oudis

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29 December 2014
5.31am
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Oudis
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Funny Paper said

I also think that good songwriters have an innate or intuitive ability to know, when they are first creating a song, what the "right" tempo is for the song they are creating.  And if they are good musicians (as the Beatles were), they are able to find that right tempo and actually put it into practice with their instruments as they begin to concretize the song.

I know this from personal experience as a songwriter myself.  I don't quite know where this sense of tempo comes from; I just know it comes to me and I usually know what the "right" tempo should be for a given song I write.

I couldn’t agree more @Funny Paper. The tempo of the song is intertwined with the melody, when you modulate if you do, the kind of chords you use (major, minor, relative chords), and of course the lyrics. It’s a subconscious, intuitive process. I have been criticized (at my English Literature classes at the university) because after years of songwriting and writing stories I maintain that we are just vessels for the Muse to descend upon us, touch us with her hand, and fill us with lyrics and melodies; but I kind of believe that –as a metaphor of course. Musicians who think rationally, and too much, about their compositions, are usually bad composers. Intuition is the key.

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Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

29 December 2014
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Hey Jude !
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Funny Paper said
The tempo is the pace of the song -- how fast or slow it is.  One way to measure it is to think of hitting the beats on a drum (or snapping your fingers or tapping your foot).  Each song is slightly (or sometimes markedly) different in tempo from other songs.  I propose that this makes a crucial difference to the song quality and the enjoyment for the listener.

I also think that good songwriters have an innate or intuitive ability to know, when they are first creating a song, what the "right" tempo is for the song they are creating.  And if they are good musicians (as the Beatles were), they are able to find that right tempo and actually put it into practice with their instruments as they begin to concretize the song.

I know this from personal experience as a songwriter myself.  I don't quite know where this sense of tempo comes from; I just know it comes to me and I usually know what the "right" tempo should be for a given song I write.

P.S.:

I recall an amusing scene from the movie Let It Be where Paul, George and Ringo (John was not there at the time) were playing around doing "Long and Winding Road" in a much faster tempo than normal.  It was interesting and rather comical (though amusingly Paul began to show visible annoyance after a while and wanted to stop, while George and Ringo seemed to be having too much 

Is it even possible to be as good as them ?

29 December 2014
5.26pm
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Hey Jude ! said

Funny Paper said

I also think that good songwriters have an innate or intuitive ability to know, when they are first creating a song, what the "right" tempo is for the song they are creating.  And if they are good musicians (as the Beatles were), they are able to find that right tempo and actually put it into practice with their instruments as they begin to concretize the song.

Is it even possible to be as good as them ?

Occasionally!

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

30 December 2014
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Tempo is certainly interesting when you consider the evolution of Revolution .

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20 February 2015
4.33am
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I just remembered that John wrote “Help ” almost as a ballad, to be played slowly, but someone (Paul? George Martin? Brian?) told him to speed it up. I wonder how that unrecorded original sounded… (probably less desperate and much sadder)

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

20 February 2015
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Matt Busby
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Oudis said

 

I couldn’t agree more @Funny Paper. The tempo of the song is intertwined with the melody, when you modulate if you do, the kind of chords you use (major, minor, relative chords), and of course the lyrics. It’s a subconscious, intuitive process. I have been criticized (at my English Literature classes at the university) because after years of songwriting and writing stories I maintain that we are just vessels for the Muse to descend upon us, touch us with her hand, and fill us with lyrics and melodies; but I kind of believe that –as a metaphor of course. Musicians who think rationally, and too much, about their compositions, are usually bad composers. Intuition is the key.

When I used to write poetry, the best poems literally poured out of me, in like 15 minutes.  I figured the muse was giving me those words. I labored over some for a couple hours and they mostly sucked. I figured I was trying to do those without divine inspiration.

Now, I'm thinking about writing again - something existential that captures the early century's zeitgeist, or at least my personal zeitgeist ;)

Getting back to tempo, have you guys seen those "fastest guitar players"? This one claims to play Flight of the Bumblebees at 4000bpm.  That is only a little faster than most cars fire at highway speeds.

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20 February 2015
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Tempo is underappreciated?

https://youtu.be/52nwiTs7bk8

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20 February 2015
6.41pm
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Oudis
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Matt Busby said
When I used to write poetry, the best poems literally poured out of me, in like 15 minutes.  I figured the muse was giving me those words. I labored over some for a couple hours and they mostly sucked. I figured I was trying to do those without divine inspiration.

Now, I'm thinking about writing again - something existential that captures the early century's zeitgeist, or at least my personal zeitgeist

Go ahead, @Matt Busby, do it! I remember a quote from Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution), a 1965 black-and-white French science fiction noir film directed by Jean-Luc Godard:

“What’s the difference between night and day, darkness and light?”

“Poetry”

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Matt Busby

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

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