Problem writing a song in 140 BPM where a specific riff only works at 100 BPM

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by BillMurray, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. BillMurray

    BillMurray SS.org Regular

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    Hi there,

    This happens a lot in my writing process and it's super frustrating, I have sacrificed so many "awesome" riffs because of this. I'm wondering if this is normal and whether there are any solutions to this problem.

    I am currently writing a song that feels good at 140 BPM, it's all going well until I come to write a different riff. It is an odd timing riff and pretty difficult to play, so what I normally do is slow down the tempo to around 80 BPM just to nail the riff with the drums, increasing it by 10 beats once I have nailed it at the current tempo, with the intention to get back to 140 BPM.

    However, this riff actually feels great at 100 BPM and it's borderline unplayable for me/does not feel right at 140 BPM.

    That's not a problem because then I will just lower the tempo to 100 BPM for that particular riff and automate the tempo to come back up to 140 for the remainder of the song. But that changes into that 100 BPM riff and back to 140 BPM afterwards simply does not work, it never f***ing works! It sounds awful!

    Any advice here would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. ThePhilosopher

    ThePhilosopher Reason User Contributor

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    Can you string together some riffs at maybe 120 or 128 and scaffold up to 140 or just finish the rest of the song off at a slower tempo?
     
  3. BillMurray

    BillMurray SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for your reply.

    What do you mean by "scaffold up to 140"?
     
  4. ThePhilosopher

    ThePhilosopher Reason User Contributor

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    Put some riffs together at 120, then some at 130, then a fill at 135 before jumping back in at 140.
     
  5. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Maybe those riffs just need to breathe in between...
     
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  6. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

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    Can you still write it at 140 but with a double-time feel maybe? Don't know if the term is formally correct.
    I mean keeping the same BPM mark but changing the note subdivisions, so for instance making it last for more measures and playing it in 8th notes instead of 16ths? Still I have no idea how you wrote the riffs so it's just a general suggestion. So basically you would approximate keeping 16th notes at half the BPM, then resolving the "tempo feel" thing and also letting the piece breathe.
     
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  7. auntyethel

    auntyethel Skommeling

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    I know my band has had the same issue quite a few times. We've found it better to just save the riff for another track, or discard the riffs that don't work entirely. It's difficult when you're sold on the idea of putting them together, but ultimately the final result is better than 'forcing' a riff in.
     
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  8. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Can you bump the rest of it up to 150 to help with the ratio? Do the slower bit at 93? Does this even make sense?

    Or put a bit in between to transition.
     
  9. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    I usually write riff to songs, rather than songs to riffs, so this isn't something I run in to often. So, I agree with Auntyethel here... probably best to save it for another song rather than jamming it in. If it's a killer riff you really like, it may be better as the main theme of it's own song.
     
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  10. metallifan3091

    metallifan3091 SS.org Regular

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    These kinds of tempo changes can be jarring if not executed well, so in my opinion it's all about the transition between two riffs. You've already identified that you DON'T like the transition that you have, so consider other transitional options instead.

    Sometimes it's as easy as ending your first riff with a sustained note or chord and letting it ring for a few measures while your drummer plays a fill or cymbal hits to bring in the new tempo.

    If that won't work, you can always try to automate the tempo change so that it increases progressively (maybe 5 bpm per measure or something?) while you vamp a riff (or even a particularly catchy measure) at decreasing speed until you get down from 140 to 100. Older prog rock bands like King Crimson used to do this sort of thing for tempo transitions.

    If you don't want to do that with an existing riff, perhaps look at writing a short new riff that combines elements (melodically, harmonically or rhythmically) of BOTH riffs in order to bridge the gap a bit.
     
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  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Chuck Schuldiner of Death and Control Denied was probably the king of abrupt tempo changes. I like to have a lot of tempo changes in my stuff, as well, but mine are not nearly as neatly executed. I think that just tightening up the band and rehearsing like there's no tomorrow is really the key. Once you can tackle tempo changes as a cohesive unit, then you should be able to smash song parts together arbitrarily and it'll still sound great.

    140-70-140 would simply be a double time feel. 160-80-160 would do the same. Compromise 150-75-150 maybe. Anyway, if you really want to push yourself, maybe try 140-75-160. That's what I would do. If 160 is too fast, then tone down the increase a little until the transitions both feel as organic as possible, maybe 140-74-156 or 140-73-152 or 140-72-148 or 140-71-144. It might add a little more urgency when you come back in.

    I got a lot of this in my own stuff from the drummer with whom I worked in Khereb. That guy had incredible feel for tempo changes and it really added dynamics to the music that worked on different levels. Sometimes going from a comfortable tempo to a balls-to-the-wall breakdown at a gazillion bmp and then coming back to the main riff 10 bpm slower just nails the point home.
     
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  12. Overtone

    Overtone SS.org Regular

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    I think everyone has it mostly covered... 100/140 is a pretty big shift, so it either has to have some kind of open space in between, a ramp up/down over time, be separated into two different songs, or there might be a way for a time signature change to help the transition feel more natural.

    An example of how a rest might help would be to create a rest between the two parts, and make it longer/shorter until it feels right. Sometimes a rest of just one or two beats is enough for you to be able to follow one part up with another that's drastically different. Sometimes it feels more natural if it's a longer rest, say 2 measures. What you can do to find the sweet spot is this: Part A is your first riff, at 140bpm. Part B is a one measure rest, initially at 140bpm. Part C is the next riff, at 100 bpm. So that's the arrangement you want to create. Then turn OFF the metronome, and adjust the tempo of part b up/down until the whole passage sounds right to you. Make a note of the how many seconds the transition is. What you want to do next is figure out the best way for the transition to be the correct length. If it's one measure of 280bpm, then what you really want is a measure of 2/4 at 140 bpm. If it's one measure of 70bpm, you want two measures of 140bpm as your break. Or maybe you actually want to use that brief pause as a ramp up. In that case you can turn the metronome back on and experiment with drawing curves/lines in the tempo automation until it sounds just right. That's what I ended up doing in a song of mine that has a fast intro, followed by a pause where I let everything ring out and decay, and then a slower verse. The tempo ramp works perfectly because 1) the space it created was the right length and 2) the ramping up of the metronome allows me to prepare for the new tempo.

    As for time signature changes, keep in mind that sometimes you can use a triplet or 3/4 feel to avoid having noticeable changes in the meter. Or perhaps 6/4 feel. It depends on the context. Maybe in this case, the faster part should be 4/4 at 140 bpm, and the slower part could work as 6/4 at 140 bpm (or maybe not).
     
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  13. Semi-pro

    Semi-pro SS.org Regular

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    ^ I agree with experimenting with "metric modulation".

    For instance, the duration of 16th notes at 96 bpm is exactly the same as triplets at 144 bpm. You could try to write a fill or a bridge section that helps you to slip between these two tempos. If you can sneak into 144 bpm with something that includes triplets, change up the drum beat so that the duration of the notes don't change but the pulse is straight 16th notes per beat and voilá, you're at 96 bpm from where you can easily proceed to the riff at 100 bpm. And just pretend it's not a big deal, it can help to get forward too :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  14. NikolajBak

    NikolajBak SS.org Regular

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    +1 to metric modulation, fx 3 over 2.
    Of course it depends on the style of music, but I would do it like this (my band is a progdeath something):
    Lets assume one of your riffs are 4/4 100bpm. If you play quater note triplets over that riff, what you are playing is essentially 3 over 2 (or 6 over 4 for a whole bar)
    If you switch perspective and view the quarter note triplets as the new main pulse (metric modulation) the "new" tempo will be 50% higher: 6/4 at 150 bpm, which lets you play 4/4 in 150 as well.
    There you go, one riff at 100 and one at 150.
    That is my approach.
     
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  15. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    That's a much better way of explaining what I was trying to say.
     

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