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Thread: Write it slow, play it fast?

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    I've been noticing a lot of tunes on the radio lately that have fairly somber themes, but are played up-tempo (No Doubt's stuff, for instance). Frankly, I love it, because it's kind of ironic to throw 'downer' lyrics on an up-tempo format. Which has made me wonder about a bigger question...is it easier to just write your songs (at least some of them) in slow-tempo ballad format and then speed 'em up? Seems like that may have been the progression some of these groups have been taking.

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    To be honest what you seem to be talking about is selling out, where you take your song out it into a different contexet than it was written. Everytime I write a song I have an imagineary tempo to it and know what it's about.

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    Most of the songs that I consider to be great and memorable regardless of style really only work at or near their original tempo,probably because that's the tempo the writer was working at/thinking of in those first moments of inspiration.Tempo,key signature,arrangement,vocalist are all ingredients in the melange that makes people respond to a really well crafted song.I should say here that I'm mostly talking about melody/lyric oriented songs,not so much dance stuff,where obviously a lot of remixing and tempo changing goes on.Try to imagine "Yesterday" at 140bpm,the reflective,melancholy tone of the lyric would seem out of place,no? Cheers!

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    I have a buddy who prides himself on making music that seems incongruous with the lyrics and themes he presents. I always call him on it, and he says "I meant to do that."

    He wrote a song about the brutalization and sodomization of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by some NY police. Sounds pretty down, but the tune was bouncy and happy, and if you didn't listen to the lyrics, you'd never know. lol

    Sometimes that kind of contrast is very effective and disturbing. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Like everything else i guess.

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    For something fast: www.mp3.com/groinchurn.


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    Not the best example, because it's combining cinema with music, but look at the extremely powerful scene in "Good Morning, Vietnam": A bomb blast in a restaurant in Saigon is immediately followed by the song "Wonderful World", while people roll on the ground in agony, mothers wail, and charred bodies cover the ground. It's an amazing effect that twists your emotions. To say that a song must be played/recorded with the tempo as originally concepted is equivalent to saying that "Wonderful World" must always be visually depicted with flowing wheat fields, smiling children and applie pie on the window sill.

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    I think you can pretty much just ignore the first couple of responses to your question...it's not selling out unless you're speeding it up just to make more money out of it. But if you're just writing it slower to make it easier on yourself, that's completely valid, especially if there's a complicated part that needs some practicing to get, but you want to go ahead and finish the song. And of course, using contrast, as in the Good Morning Vietnam example, is great for making your point more vivid. In that example, using optimistic music makes the violence even more shocking, and contradicts the mindless optimism of the song (though I do like that song) and the mindless optimism of the Americans going into the Vietnam War (sorry to sound like a college term paper). A similar example, but in song, is "Wave the White Flag," by Elvis Costello, in which the narrating character sings about abusing his wife to an upbeat country tune. The happy music helps show the stupidity of the narrator, and kind of parodies country tunes about the nagging wife at the same time. So I guess my point is, having something sound "out of place," as virtual.ray says, is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you're trying to do. Personally, I think those contrasts can very appealing.

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    It depends on the situation.The guy in the example I used isn't trying to be ironic or profound or even particularly clever.Just singing about how much difference one day made in his life because of what happened on that day.

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    Wink bingo

    I agree with Pirateking. There's nothing wrong with changing the tempo of a song you wrote. Gee wiz, it's your creation so you make the rules. Writing a song is about telling a story, evoking a mood, and striking a chord with the listener. But above that its about self expression. Thinking outside the box is a good thing.

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    Lightbulb

    Have you ever played a song from sheet music without ever having heard it before and then later heard the song as performed by the original artist?

    Before I heard the Beatles' "Lady Madonna" I had played it from a lead sheet thinking that it was a slow ballad. When I heard the Beatles' original version it was way different. The funny thing is that it is a well crafted song and sounds good played slowly or quickly. The same thing happened to me with Billy Joel's "The Stranger". IT sounds great at any tempo.

    Tucci
    Tucci

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