How to use tempo for better songwriting and composing. This is an often forgotten question. Not only by composers and songwriters but also by many musicians. It’s easy to forget about it. Because it’s not as interesting as harmony, melody or orchestration. Right? Let’s dive in and let’s get creative!

The Secrets Of How To Use Tempo For Songwriters & Composers

Ok, tempo is not that sexy of a music topic. But many will be surprised by how important it is. Choosing the wrong tempo can make or break your song or composition.

What you will learn in this lesson about musical tempo is:

Video Lesson: The Secret Behind Your Music‘s Tempo

I advise you to play and experiment with the tempo examples in this article. When you play them you hear and feel things differently. But maybe you don’t have an instrument lying around or you cannot play right now. If you want to hear real music examples check my tutorial below.

YouTube video

When a Fast Tempo In Music Is Better

A fast tempo in music asks for a different playing style. In general, you accentuate the notes and chords differently. You play your melodies lighter and they carry less weight. Of course, there are exceptions. And yes fast music can also be played heavily. But this will cost a lot of energy and most likely you will not be able to do this for very long. Fast music asks for shorter accents and a lighter approach.

But it’s not only the playing that is under the influence of the tempo. Also, the character of your song or composition can change when you choose the wrong tempo. The example below is supposed to be played in tempo Vivace. Tempo vivace would be between 155 and 175 bmp. The musical character is supposed to be lively and light.

Musical tempo example: Chord progression to be played Vivace BPM= 160 and Moderato BPM= 110
Musical tempo example: Chord progression to be played Vivace BPM= 160 and Moderato BPM= 110

No play this chord progression example again. But instead of tempo vivace you choose tempo moderato. The bpm of moderato tempo is between 105 and 120 beats per minute.

Now tell me, how does it feel and sound? The musical character has changed because of the slow tempo right? It’s difficult to play this example with the same light and lively articulation. To me, this change of tempo makes the music sound dark, heavy and more minor. Maybe this slow tempo even makes it sound sluggish.

When a Slow Tempo Gives More Musical Options

A fast tempo in music is not always better. This is quite obvious. A slow tempo in music has its beauty. It has its own time and place to shine. Play the chord progression below in a moderato tempo. You should aim for about 110 bpm.

Music example of switching from tempo andante or moderato to tempo largo
Music example of switching from tempo moderato to tempo largo

To me, this chord progression sounds boring and overused. Especially when you play it in a middle-of-the-road tempo. So there are two options. Speed it up or slow it down. But since this chord progression is boring, I want to add things. And in general, adding things is easier when you slow the tempo down.

Play the chord progression again but now in tempo largo. Tempo largo is between 40 and 60 bpm and should be played slow and broad. Now you have all this space to fill up. Isn’t that fantastic? I took advantage of this largo tempo and added some long and spacious vocal lines. These would have not been possible in our old moderato tempo. Check it out.

Your audience or listeners can take the time and listen to every detail. Isn’t that great?

Conclusion and Summary

With this article or lesson about how to use tempo in music, we barely scratched the surface of what’s possible songwriting and composition-wise. But I do hope that I inspired you to play around more with your music‘s tempo.

Whenever you’re stuck writing or performing a piece try to change the tempo. Often it will sound completely different. Not only does the music sound different. Your intention and articulation will adjust to the new tempo. The music just speaks differently.

The tempo of your music is a secret songwriting and composing tool that you should be aware of. Best of all, it is the easiest writing tool you can use.

Questions About What Is The Tempo In Music

Tempo is the speed or pace of a piece of music. If you’ve read this article about tempo you know why it’s so important. It can make or break your song. It affects the mood, expression, and flow of the music.

  • Tempo can create the right mood for your song. A fast tempo can create excitement and stress. A slow tempo can create a sense of inner peace or sadness.
  • Tempo can help to keep time and create a rhythm for the music. A stable and dependable tempo helps musicians play together and keep time.
  • Tempo can add variation and interest to your music. When you change the tempo it can create contrast.

BPM is short for beats per minute. This is a unit to measure the exact tempo. When we talk about tempo we mean the speed at which a piece of music is played. You measure this by the number of beats that are counted within a minute.

So, a higher BPM means the music is played faster. And of course, a lower BPM means you play something slower. In classical music, different tempos and speeds have different names. Not only does it refer to the BPM number, but it also indicates a certain character. For example, tempo largo in music should be played broad and slow. While allegrissimo is played very fast, lively and bright. And presto in music is played even faster.

Yes, BPM and tempo are related but are not 100% the same. BPM is a way to express tempo numerically. But it doesn’t suggest the character of the music.

The common tempo numbers differ and depend on the genre and style of music. but the most common are tempos in the middle of the spectrum. Anything below 60 BPM becomes slow and everything above 160 BPM starts to become quite fast. For example, most pop music is between 70 and 140 BPM.

As a composer or songwriter, you must be aware of your music‘s tempo. What this means is that you know when a tempo is wrong or right for your music. Because choosing a too slow tempo will make your music drag. So if you want the piece to have a sense of urgency, then it cannot be largo or andante tempo. But if you want to write something romantic and emotional, then a fast tempo will not work. It will take away all the lovely details. When it’s emotional you want your listener to feel every beat.

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