Songs With Variable Tempo

JustJames

Platinum Member
The classic rock band that I drum for plays a rocked out version of Abba's SOS. There was a sense that we weren't nailing the feel of the song. So we gave a listen to Abba. There is a huge speeding up for the chorus, followed by a slow down for the next verse.

I've always strived to keep my time steady; that's been the goal. So what a wake up to learn that sometimes a bit of variability is what is needed.

Even weirder, is that the speeding up and slowing down just sort of looks after itself, which I don't even pretend to understand.

Over to you guys - do you have songs where you change the bpm for certain sections? How do you manage to keep it about right? Is this too many questions?
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
I just took a listen and you're right. Per Lindvall was their drummer, excellent player, did all their big hits. It does surprise me though that they're speeding up, I can only imagine it's intentional for tension and release between verses and choruses.

It seems to be about 120bpm in the verses going up to about 126/127 in the choruses. I guess since you're not playing in the verses you can just push the tempo up when you come in each time and then when you stop it's up to the keyboards and or guitar to bring it back down.
 

Ajthundersticks

Senior Member
I think that when playing live there is absolutely a demand for the tempo to speed up sometimes.
It's less common on studio work but it does work on some songs.
An example that springs to mind is A Prophecy - Close Lobsters. It speeds up a fair bit about 2/3rd's of the way through which is pretty strange, but if it didn't I feel as though the song might drag on and on... So I can see why they left it like that.

In terms of live performances you quite often see bands speeding up when they know the audience are really anticipating or enjoying a certain segment of the song and want to go a bit nuts. Usually the choruses.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Modern synth pop tunes often speed up one or two bpms during the chorus, just for a bit of a lift.
 
I remember an interview with Stewart Copeland back in the 1980s, where he said you had to speed up as you went into the chorus, because that's when the song got more exciting, and if you didn't speed up, if you kept the tempo perfectly consistent, it actually felt to the listener as though you were slowing down and dragging the excitement down with you.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think there's some local bands who write all their songs with "variable tempos".
 

double_G

Silver Member
agreed...i dont like to do it but sometimes it's inevitable (especially with the rest of the band learning / playing along to the classic sped up album version). like "squib cakes" by TOP. goes from 112 --118/120. the solos speed up. then you can hear garibaldi / rocco try to rein it back in for the outro.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
agreed...i dont like to do it but sometimes it's inevitable (especially with the rest of the band learning / playing along to the classic sped up album version). like "squib cakes" by TOP. goes from 112 --118/120. the solos speed up. then you can hear garibaldi / rocco try to rein it back in for the outro.


Yeah, or Herbie Hancock 'Chameleon' starts at 92 and ends on 118. :D
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Just What I Needed - The Cars.
The whole band has to know and feel the slight tempo change. Again, I think once the drummer learns the song well, the 'feel' for speed or tension works. Like you said it will look after itself in the band context.
 

BruceW

Senior Member
April Wine - Sign of The Gypsy Queen. When it goes to the break, it slows down dramatically...then is supposed to go back to the original tempo after a nice guitar bridge section. Of course, we go WAY too fast for the rest of the solo after the bridge, and I try to slow it down as we head back into the last verse. I laugh about it now, cuz its so predictable.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..I just took a listen and you're right. Per Lindvall was their drummer, excellent player, did all their big hits..


Sorry, but thats not correct, he only played with them the last few years..

Their main drummer should be considered Ola Brunkert, who played the most drumparts from the beginning till the end for them..
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
...I guess since you're not playing in the verses you can just push the tempo up when you come in each time and then when you stop it's up to the keyboards and or guitar to bring it back down.

I keep 1/4 notes going on the bass drum through the verse, with some minor ride cymbal flourishes, so I am "playing" throughout.

Our lead guitarist heard this hard rock version of the song. We started out aiming for that sort of sound, then realised it's really not our style, so we ended up halfway between Abba and the linked recording.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I filled in for a band one time, and one of their songs had the most abrupt tempo changes of any song I've ever heard, never mind played. It was an original song, so there's no evidence of it anywhere, but I nailed the song after listening to it way too much. I understand speeding up and slowing down, but that song was insane because it really made no sense, but it all ended up going well.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
I keep 1/4 notes going on the bass drum through the verse, with some minor ride cymbal flourishes, so I am "playing" throughout.

Our lead guitarist heard this hard rock version of the song. We started out aiming for that sort of sound, then realised it's really not our style, so we ended up halfway between Abba and the linked recording.

Got it. Yeah, that hard rock version,.. yikes!

Sorry, but thats not correct, he only played with them the last few years..

Their main drummer should be considered Ola Brunkert, who played the most drumparts from the beginning till the end for them..

Ah right, I stand humbly corrected. Very interesting, I never heard of Ola Brunkert. Was he the drummer that recorded most of the main hits, like Waterloo, SOS, Fernando, etc? I was always under the impression, (only from what I read years ago of other drummers talking about him) that Per was responsible for the groove on dancing queen?
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..Ah right, I stand humbly corrected. Very interesting, I never heard of Ola Brunkert. Was he the drummer that recorded most of the main hits, like Waterloo, SOS, Fernando, etc? I was always under the impression, (only from what I read years ago of other drummers talking about him) that Per was responsible for the groove on dancing queen?..


For sure he was not responsible for Dancing Queen..The Arrival album is from 1977 and Per Lindvall started with ABBA on the Super Trooper album, which is 1980..I actually think he played only the song Super Trooper on that album and the other songs Ola Brunkert again..

I am not owning all the albums and i can not tell you for 100% sure that each of the 3 songs you mentioned is played by him, but Ola Brunkert has been the only drummer who played on all the ABBA albums and for sure he is playing on the most hits from 1973 till 1980..Also toured a few years with them at the end of the 70's..

Dancing Queen has Ola Brunkert or Roger Palm on drums, not sure..I have the album and i will check, but as far as i remember the credits are not putted song by song on that one..
 

Mustion

Senior Member
I remember an interview with Stewart Copeland back in the 1980s, where he said you had to speed up as you went into the chorus, because that's when the song got more exciting, and if you didn't speed up, if you kept the tempo perfectly consistent, it actually felt to the listener as though you were slowing down and dragging the excitement down with you.

I remember watching live video of the Police many years ago and wondering why his tempo was all over the place like that. It was a bit of a disillusioning moment as I considered him a great at the time. I also wondered why he wore those super long socks.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
For sure he was not responsible for Dancing Queen..The Arrival album is from 1977 and Per Lindvall started with ABBA on the Super Trooper album, which is 1980..I actually think he played only the song Super Trooper on that album and the other songs Ola Brunkert again..

I am not owning all the albums and i can not tell you for 100% sure that each of the 3 songs you mentioned is played by him, but Ola Brunkert has been the only drummer who played on all the ABBA albums and for sure he is playing on the most hits from 1973 till 1980..Also toured a few years with them at the end of the 70's..

Dancing Queen has Ola Brunkert or Roger Palm on drums, not sure..I have the album and i will check, but as far as i remember the credits are not putted song by song on that one..

You're quite correct. And I found the original (might be the original, I'm hearing some minor differences) isolated drum track for Dancing Queen played by Ola Brunkert.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe6dgDGed9Q
 
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Les Ismore

Platinum Member
The classic rock band that I drum for plays a rocked out version of Abba's SOS. There was a sense that we weren't nailing the feel of the song. So we gave a listen to Abba. There is a huge speeding up for the chorus, followed by a slow down for the next verse.

I've always strived to keep my time steady; that's been the goal. So what a wake up to learn that sometimes a bit of variability is what is needed.

Even weirder, is that the speeding up and slowing down just sort of looks after itself, which I don't even pretend to understand.

Over to you guys - do you have songs where you change the bpm for certain sections? How do you manage to keep it about right? Is this too many questions?


If you want to sound/feel like the original, then you have to follow the tempo. Its called 'tempo mapping'.

If you're not tempo mapping songs, then your cover band is going to sound very much like a cover band, not the original. If you want to get your cover versions selected for use, you have to tempo map, as its the feel of the tempo the person listening to your demo of covers is going to pick up on.

Subconsciously a hit songs tempo is in peoples head, its burned into their memory without them even knowing it in the sense of, if they hear the same song with a different tempo map they will not accept it as the original.

If you were to hear the ABBA's SOS with a different tempo map, you'd easily recognize it as not the original, not the hit, off sounding, even if ABBA was playing it.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..If you want to sound/feel like the original, then you have to follow the tempo. Its called 'tempo mapping'.

If you're not tempo mapping songs, then your cover band is going to sound very much like a cover band, not the original. If you want to get your cover versions selected for use, you have to tempo map, as its the feel of the tempo the person listening to your demo of covers is going to pick up on.

Subconsciously a hit songs tempo is in peoples head, its burned into their memory without them even knowing it in the sense of, if they hear the same song with a different tempo map they will not accept it as the original..


Every coverband sounds like a coverband anyway and the last thing that i would advice to any coverband is to start 'tempo mapping' each song to the original tempo, because i can guarantee you that your complete gig will feel like a complete drag to your band and the audience..

The opposite is also not true ofcourse, like, you also should not start rushing each song like an idiot..

But also normal bands rarely play their songs in a live situation in the original tempo of the recordings, because of the spirit of a live show..

A live show is a very different experience compared to sitting at home in your chair..At a live show people are, hopefully, a little exited and the last thing they want is being putted to sleep..

And trust me, if you would ask the audience before the show in which tempo they think song A or song B is and you would use a metronome to keep the results, i think you would be pretty shocked..lol..
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
Yes, I know all roads lead back to James Brown for me, but you should hear the speed at which he played even his most well known songs live. What may have been 92 bpm in the studio version suddenly became, say, 165 bpm live.
 
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