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choosing correct song tempo

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sammyg, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    Dec 12, 2003
    Hi all,

    was wondering, as song tempo is a big factor in getting a song to sound/sit right, what methods do you find works well to obtain the correct tempo when you're about to record a song?

    I find this topic interesting and find that its something that is quite often forgotten about or not considered very important by some. Im especially keen to hear methods when recording a song one instrument at a time.
    Is it always the vocals that are the deciding factor?

    This subject was highlighted to me after watching the Metallica "black album" classic albums dvd, it shows Bob Rock playing a demo tape of "sad but true" that metallica recorded themselves and it was way faster than the recorded version, couldnt believe how much of a difference it made to the song.

    Would love to hear some of your techniques, tricks!


  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    I think that best way to do this is for a band to play the song before live audiences 3-4 nights a week for about 4-5 years. By then they should have the tempo figured out.

    I guess an experienced producer and professional session musicians can substitute for live trials, but for me the only thing that really works is real face-to-face rehearsals with the band.
  3. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    Our church band can never nail a song called "Over The Mountains And The Sea". Drums off, song too fast, vocals can't keep up/out of breath.

    First time we nailed it timewise (not accelerating, keeping relatively in time with each other) was after 10 or more plays.
    Of course, that time we were 20 miles away from my recording gear.

    A) record everything and play it back a few times
    B) get a metronome/click track in the cans
    C) work out the tempo from the drummer if he can keep a beat properly
  4. eatmyshoes

    eatmyshoes Guest

    Well, Sonar 7 has a audiosnap option which enables you to alter the tempo of the song without changing the original sound (within a certain amount). I'm sure other DAW's have similar options. This is good if you are unsure of what tempo might sound best with your song. Just record a scratch version of the song, then flip through a couple of tempos... find which one sounds best and go from there.

    I don't recommend, obviously, recording and mixing the entire song, then changing the tempo.
  5. Space

    Space Distinguished Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    I have done that, changed the tempo of an exported mix. Something about the kick coming in with the rest of the tracks seemed off a smidge. So I bumped the tempo up a few cents and it seemed to help. Surely it just moved it past my ears quicker, but it seemed like it did the trick.
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Tempo.....and by this I mean 'correct tempo' is a matter of taste. Its not unusual for me and my band to record a song with several different tempos as well as feels just to hear how it is presented with these differences. Its a big reason I stress pre-production sessions.

    Ya cant really get objective about it while yer playing it. Its a 'have to sit with it' thing.....................
  7. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    Jan 10, 2008
    New York
    I agree with everything said here, especially Davedog's comment about tempo being subjective.

    What I usually do is listen to the song a few times until I have it in memory (without memorizing the tempo)... at least the main hook. Then I step away from it for 5 or 10 mins and listen to something else or whatever. Then I recall the song from memory and find the tempo that I'm hearing it in with a tap tempo calculator. You'd be suprised at how natural it is to speed things up or slow them down to find a better groove. And of course, sometimes the current speed is the perfect speed.

    This method has never failed for me... whenever I use logic and math it doesn't work out, but that could just be because I'm a complete moron.
  8. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    Dec 12, 2003
    all good points, especialy about taste. More pondering to do!



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