Does anybody really know what time it is?

Apart from being a great track by Chicago, I’ve been fascinated by BPM and the correlation between tempo and mood.
BPM is what we call Beats Per Minute and is pretty much the starting point for a new track. Setting the BPM creates the feel, mood and spirit of a song or instrumental as well as the length.

There are so many factors; If you’re writing a track to a certain BPM it might be immediately obvious. Or a song that’s either down tempo (80BPM) Hip Hop (85-110) House (118-135) Garage (130-135) Drum & Bass (170-190) these are all dictated by the initial BPM or tempo.

Tempo evokes a specific mood or feeling whether it be a song, an instrumental, a groove, an underscore. It all goes back a long way. Here for example are the traditional Italian templates that are well known in classical music as well as modern contemporary and when writing film scores:
Largo (very slow) is 40–60 BPM.
Larghetto (less slow) is 60–66 BPM.
Adagio (moderately slow) is 66–76 BPM.
Andante (walking speed) is 76–108 BPM.
Moderato (moderate) is 108–120 BPM.
Allegro (fast) is 120–168 BPM.
Presto (faster) is 168–200 BPM.
Prestissimo (even faster) is 200+ BPM.

There has been much written on this and this blog certainly won’t go into any academic detail, even if I could.
But it’s interesting to acknowledge that we are all rhythm driven. Our heartbeats can beat between 40 BPM, if we’re super fit, up to an astounding 200 BPM if we’re doing some extreme exercise. Depending on your resting heart rate, your moods, emotion, blood pressure and general wellbeing can be affected for good, and sometimes for bad. Most of us will have a resting heart rate of between 60-85 upwards possibly to around 100 BPM, and it’s interesting to see that most of us will prefer music in that range of tempi within normal daily situations. But faster beats can produce varied emotions and feelings to the point where they aggravate, stimulate, invigorate and sometimes counter our own personal rhythms. This is where stuff can get quite funky.

As writers we try to capture the mood and emotion of a particular moment and hope that it applies to that situation. Whether it be a scene in a documentary, film, TV drama we want the music to compliment rather than conflict. But that’s not to say they can’t be doing different things. I think that tempo has a huge amount to play in the initial creation of our music as media composers and I challenge you to write and compose, thinking very specifically of different tempi. Use certain beats per minute you’ve never used before. Try starting off for example with 150 BPM but work this alongside a half tempo of 75 BPM. It’s exciting and moody all in one piece. Or create a series of meditation pieces all around 65 BPM and see how these make you feel while you’re doing it. It’s a great thing to get to the end of a session having written a few pieces that have not only created something from scratch, but also made you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and generally more fulfilled. Find your natural rhythms and enjoy them. They are as unique to you as your own heartbeat. Does anybody know what time it is?

You decide, you have all the beats.