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Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

What Happened with Electronic Music and Multiple Tempos?

Posted on | January 1, 2008 | 2 Comments

fantasy_houses.jpgMy wife wanted me to make another mix for running purposes. That it inself is usually a challenge, as runners, depending on their pace, like something like 80-95 bpm. Finding tracks in that range that are not ballads is a tough job, unless you use the 160-180bpm tracks and those are super-fast. In addition she wanted music from the eighties, from the European New Romantic period (Simple Minds et rest.)

So I fired up my newly installed iTunes collection and looked through material. It was actually very interesting. For example, the Ultravox Rage in Eden album had bpm values from 73bpm to 150bpm, and many tracks were 140bpm or more. In many cases the tracks sounded faster than the actual bpm value, using all kinds of classical tricks such as syncopation.

And this was true of many other similar albums of this time.

Now, it seems we are stuck in the 128bpm rot in the concurrent electronic music, especially in the dance music world. Maybe it’s a practical issue concerning the dancing audience and having the option to increase the bpm during the mix. But it’s for me a little bit sad that we don’t really make use of various tempos in music today. It seems few dare to change this model. Anyway, especially if someone is working on an album, I would strongly recommend to just break all the rules and use tempos from 60pm up to 180bpm. That would be refreshing. Now, having even radical tempo changes along the track would be even more intriguing.

Classical composers used tempo changes, even microscopic ones, along their compositions. While we are locked to a fixed tempo, ack.


2 Responses to “What Happened with Electronic Music and Multiple Tempos?”

  1. Steve
    January 1st, 2008 @ 8:42 PM

    You can still find BPM variety here and there. I think the lack of tempo variety in electronic dance music in general has a few other reasons:
    1 – musicianship generally doesn’t drive electronic music. Bands like Ultravox were very much about musicianship.
    2 – electronic gear really doesn’t make tempo changing a natural thing. It’s easy to change to any tempo on a guitar, with electronics, there’s usually a few extra hoops to jump through.

  2. JimArea
    January 3rd, 2008 @ 8:01 AM

    I agree with Steve to a point. There are plenty of electronic and dance acts that make music not just boops and beeps. If you use Live then tempo change is no big deal at all.
    I think the real issue (where I live) is how people view dance music as many little catagories. SO if your tempo gets out of 140 range it may be too
    rave like or in the other direction and now it’s too downtempo. For the average club goer who likes to socialize more than follow the music being challenged by thought provoking tracks is not why they are there. You have to give them something familiar and hope they get drunk enough to go along with you at a later point in the night.
    I see this a lot and it is dissapointing.
    We have an average tempo because most people who go out are average folks. Not techno super fans wanting the out of the ordinary experience pushing their understanding.
    What can you do right?

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