Dynamic BPM

Dynamic BPM

Dynamic BPM is my way of thinking about how to change one of the fundamental assumptions of producing electronic (or any) music since the first sequencers were created: that the tempo of a song does not and should not change. Not to say it’s impossible to write or record tempo change automation in DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) but the interfaces to do this in a creatively satisfying way are lacking.

But Why?

The short answer is engagement and expression. Changing the pace of music is one of the most primitively engaging mechanisms our brains will respond to. Gradually speeding up or slowing down both introduce uncertainty and anticipation about what lies ahead. Also, if a song has a slower section and a faster section then the distinct mood associated with each will be enhanced by that contrast.

So I’ve been trying to build tools/interfaces that make working with changing BPM, particularly in realtime, more useful. If there are better-made tools and interfaces for working with tempo changes then producers might find more creative uses for them. Since starting development on such tools, I’ve already found creative uses them very different than what I originally envisioned before making the tools.

What follow are two pretty simple demos that resulted from using early iterations of these tools.

The ultimate goal is combining the techniques of Dynamic BPM with other music composition/production practices to create more potent emotional impact. Consequently, these rather sterile demos represent small steps both toward completing the tools and forming a compelling style.

Examples

Both excerpts were performed using simple pre-designed clips in Live combined with realtime BPM/Tempo modifications and sound design changes.

The first excerpt is a melodic 2-bar loop through a BPM-synced AutoFilter, which helps emphasize the constant minor changes to the underlying tempo.

The second excerpt (from “breeze over grassy hills”) has no clearly identifiable pulse, but the BPM actually changes up to 4x during the excerpt. In this case the wide BPM changes are used to shape long