Tempo For Guitar And Everything Else

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Some people can’t keep a beat, but western music tends to have a steady one. All the tempo does is tell you how quickly these beats come, and so it is measured in BPM, or, Beats Per Minute.

Even so, it’s still a good idea to know roughly what certain speeds indicate. The higher the number, the faster you’ll be playing.

In general it goes like this:

  • 1 to 60 bpm – just plain slow, “trudge-y” even; the lower the number the sloooower… it… goes… Obviously!
  • 61 to 80 bpm – sedate, relaxed, but still moving. Like a nice walk in the park.
  • 81 to 120 bpm – average tempo; most songs will fall in this category.
  • 121 to 150 bpm – fast and active. A good upbeat rock or metal speed.
  • 151 to 200 bpm – really fast. Playing at these speeds will wear you out.
  • 201 bpm and above – mainly for crazy people.

Tempo For Guitar And Everything Else

And for your entertainment, because I care, here are the rough speeds of some songs you probably know:

  • Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix: around 110 BPM for the entire song.
  • Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin: around 75bpm during the intro, roughly 100bpm during the solo.
  • Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd: This one starts slow and ends with a kick. The intro and first several verses clock in at around 60 BPM, and when the multi-minute ending solo hits the song more than doubles to around 130 BPM. Sometimes this is all you need to give the song a nice boost.
  • Master of Puppets by Metallica: above 200 BPM during the fast sections, down to around 120 during the slower middle, and back up to above 200 near the end. Masterful use of contrast on this one.

And that’s tempo. This isn’t really something you should have to “study”, but it is important to be familiar with it.