What it is about

Getting rid of stuff.

A slow spare rocker.

How it was written

What started as another adventure in minimalism got sidetracked as usual. This time into tempo.

Check the pulse

Decluttering tempo (0:06)
Decluttering tempo
Decluttering tempo

How slow can music be? When does it become undanceable?

Well, first, you cannot dance to any music if the tempo varies. Small tempo changes are OK, as is speeding up over a long period of time, but regular tempo change and dancing are not compatible.

Given a fixed tempo, then the undanceable boundary is around 30bpm. At this tempo, the gap between two consecutive beats is two seconds and a listener has difficulty perceiving any rhythm at all.

In its Freestyle Disco syllabus, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD - and what a lovely name), recommends the following tempos:

  • Slow 64 bpm approx
  • Street Style 88-112 bpm approx
  • Medium 112-120 bpm approx
  • Fast 128-132 bpm approx

Decluttering, at 80bpm, is walking pace. Lower Street Style in ISTD parlance, andante in Italian.

Feed the meter

Decluttering meter (0:00)
Decluttering meter
Decluttering meter

The rhythm of a fixed tempo piece can be varied in lots of ways. The simplest approach is to double the tempo, as in bars 3-4 above.

After that it is a matter of playing around with the meter.

Introducing a cross-rhythm, a new rhythm at a different tempo, is very effective. A simple change from 4 bars of quavers to 4 bars of tripleted quavers changes the rhythm from 4/4 to 12/8. A further option, and in many ways the best, is to syncopate. Since meter is largely about accenting, then syncopation, changing the placement of the accent, significantly changes the feel.

And meter is not all about percussion, other instruments can change their rhythm too. The fretless bass in Decluttering plays a pretty convoluted line using syncopation and cross-rhythms, and even does them both within the same bar.

Tech spec

Title: Decluttering

Key: D

Tempo: 80bpm

Length: 3' 03"

Track 1: rain FX melody

Track 2: sweep pad harmony

Track 3: steel guitar

Track 4: nylon guitar

Track 5: fretless bass

Track 6: drumset

Genre: Pop, Rock