Tempo can be defined as how fast or slow a piece of music should be sung or played at. Tempo is what listeners are talking about when they refer to a song as being “upbeat” or “slow.” Musicians measure tempo in B.P.M. or Beats Per Minute. Even though one beat per second sounds like it would be fast, 60 B.P.M. is actually a very slow tempo. Most pop songs fall in the 85 to 125 B.P.M. range. Some genres of music are defined by the tempos that they employ (Speed Metal and Downtempo Electronica being the most obvious examples).
Let’s experiment with the GarageBand app on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch to shed some light on the significance of tempo.
From here, you have two options:
1. You can press the up and down arrows to manually set the tempo by number.
2. You can tap a steady beat directly on the “Tap to set Tempo” button. It takes at least 4 taps for this to work.
Finish by pressing the blue “Done” button in the upper right hand corner.
Let’s pick some drums to play a beat to our tempo.
You now have a cool beat grooving along at 96 B.P.M.!
Want some more fun? Tap the “die” icon. This will randomize the elements of your beat. Each time you press the die, a new beat will be created at 96 B.P.M.
To really see how different tempos can affect the feel of music, tap the “Gear” Icon followed by the “Tempo” button and experiment with faster and slower tempo settings.