What is the tempo of a song? Frequently Asked Questions

Songs, from popular to classical and everything in between, have tempos. The tempo is the pace or speed at which music is played (measured in beats per minute).

In short, a tempo of 60 beats per minute means there's one beat per second (it also depends on time signature, but let's keep things simple here).

A song that has a faster tempo is generally seen as being happier, or perhaps more popular. For example, faster tempo pieces of music generally create a more energetic sound overall, and this helps to create a mood for the listener.

Why have a tempo?

The point of a tempo is simple, and is best explained when thinking of classical music. In classical, tempos are used to either relax or excite the listener. A slow tempo generally creates a pleasant, slow mood. At the same time, a fast tempo creates drama, pace and excitement.

Within the tempo are the number of beats per minute. A fast piece of music may well have a tempo of 130 beats per minute, for example. A slower love song may have a tempo of 60 beats per minute, or one beat per second.