What keys and tempos do you like to work in?

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Jagwah
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Post 23 Jan 2023

I thought this might be an interesting question to ask especially if people explain their choices and how they find them.

I tend to work anywhere from 100 - 150 BPM. I work at 140BPM a lot and this is due to having my template set to this which was originally for working in Dubstep. I don't imagine I would go higher than 150. New wave type stuff works well slow around 110BPM, and if I want something more upbeat then I would be around 130 or higher. Usually it's set very early on when working on a piece then I don't really think about it any more.

I started working in E Harmonic Minor simply because I was trying out different keys and sorta stuck with this one and now I can play it and work in it well. It has a fairly dark mood which covers most of my recent work so I keep using it. If I wanted something really bright and happy I guess I would try a major key otherwise I would just experiment with more minor keys.

What tempos and keys do you like to work in, and from your experience do you believe they have any certain characteristics about them?


Cheers! :thumbup:

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Rising Night Wave
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Post 23 Jan 2023

about keys... all sorts of. but tempos are somehow standard at me: 120, 124, 128, 136, 140, 144, 148, 156, 160... i hope this is not werid but i found these tempos best to work with. of course it depends on song itself which tempo best suits it. ... i wanted to say: i do not use tempos like 137 or 129 or 111 or 143 or something like that. but somehow lets say organic tempos if i may say so. i found for my taste that number 8 makes great magic in this.

sometimes, when i am finding the right tempo, i just bang with my head and sync the DAWs tempo to it hehe. really.
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Popey
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Post 23 Jan 2023

Temp wise I usually work between 120-130bpm for 4-4 tracks and anything between 170-174bpm for drum and bass.
Key wise I work in a variety but usually in minor iterations as I find them more moody and sad.

A lot of the time I will start with a kick I like and the key I work in is decided by the key of the kick. I have no real rules or preferences for a key and sometimes just jam a melody or chords on my push2 and then see what key they are actually in.

RobC
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Post 23 Jan 2023

Whatever tempo my lyrics/performance dictate!

Whatever key the given section of the song asks for!

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huggermugger
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Post 23 Jan 2023

Downtempo, 70-100 bpm. Lots of time to feel that groove.

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selig
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Post 23 Jan 2023

I have a wide range of tempos and keys I work in, ranging from the 60-70 BPM range up to 150 and even above. I often choose an uncommon (for me) key on purpose to get myself into new sonic territory since I can get repetitive with my music when using the same key. Sometimes both the key and tempo are suggested in a drum kit/loop I may find interesting. Occasionally I’ll transpose key slightly or shift tempo up.down a bit to better fit where I find myself heading. Most often I choose a tempo and key far from whatever i used most recently - I guess I tend to get bored easily and am always looking for greener pastures! ;)
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MuttReason
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Post 23 Jan 2023

Used to stick to the 80-105bpm range mostly as I did a lot of lofi/downtempo tracks. These days I’m more into EDM stuff so usually range from 130 up to 170 or so for liquid d&b tracks.

Keys: I try to mix this up as much as possible. Most of my writing is via the Ableton Push2 so I tend to switch up between root keys and scales/modes a lot, trying out different hand shapes on the Push2 pads with different modes always yields happy chordal accidents.

I’m now at the point where even though I play keys (piano since age 8) I actually prefer using the Push2 instead of a MIDI keyboard, with a keyboard my hands often fall into familiar shapes and grooves whereas with the Push2 there is a lot more variety IME.

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Jagwah
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Post 28 Jan 2023

Hey guys really sorry about the late response I will try not to do that again.

Rising Night Wave wrote:
23 Jan 2023
about keys... all sorts of. but tempos are somehow standard at me: 120, 124, 128, 136, 140, 144, 148, 156, 160... i hope this is not werid but i found these tempos best to work with. of course it depends on song itself which tempo best suits it. ... i wanted to say: i do not use tempos like 137 or 129 or 111 or 143 or something like that. but somehow lets say organic tempos if i may say so. i found for my taste that number 8 makes great magic in this.

sometimes, when i am finding the right tempo, i just bang with my head and sync the DAWs tempo to it hehe. really.
Really interesting thanks for sharing this. I will try your number 8 theory. I usually try and guess what I feel like somewhere between 110 and 140 and usually I pick it OK just by that guess. I only once or twice fooled around with changing tempos later in the production stage and it was almost too adjustable, it can be adjusted by such small increments it can be a real time drainer and confusing. I know some out there like to experiment like this though. Cheers!
Popey wrote:
23 Jan 2023
Temp wise I usually work between 120-130bpm for 4-4 tracks and anything between 170-174bpm for drum and bass.
Key wise I work in a variety but usually in minor iterations as I find them more moody and sad.

A lot of the time I will start with a kick I like and the key I work in is decided by the key of the kick. I have no real rules or preferences for a key and sometimes just jam a melody or chords on my push2 and then see what key they are actually in.
Yes I am always 4/4 too and I should have asked about time signatures in the thread question, that could have been interesting.

Yes i stick with minor keys most of the time now but that's because of where I am at in my journey, I agree they are good for moody and sad and even angry moods. I really like and look forward to working more with happy major chords. I avoid sad music and don't produce it, not that there's anything wrong with it.

That's interesting about your kick tuning method. Had trouble with that in the past. Tone needs time. Kicks don't have very much time as they are very short, and in the body of the kick even less time is allowed for that tone. Are you good at making tuned kicks or do you know of any good kick libraries that are tuned and labelled? Been a long time since I looked in to that, but would really like to have them all the same.

Cool about the jamming method then getting your tuning, I only start with a key in mind so this is something I could experiment with, cheers for sharing!

RobC wrote:
23 Jan 2023
Whatever tempo my lyrics/performance dictate!

Whatever key the given section of the song asks for!
Oh man you choose keys like that? You must be light years ahead of me there. If you feel it might be worthwhile sharing your opinions of keys and their characteristics you could always comment on this thread I did a while back. Would be great to get someone's personal take who has a good understanding of them. Cheers!! :)
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=7526529&p=593034&hilit=key#p593034


huggermugger wrote:
23 Jan 2023
Downtempo, 70-100 bpm. Lots of time to feel that groove.
I bet that groove grooves real good down there. :) I can't wait to learn more about drums and the all important groove, always found it a bit elusive without having a good understanding which I don't. I should try something like 70 bpm sometime! Cheers!

selig wrote:
23 Jan 2023
I have a wide range of tempos and keys I work in, ranging from the 60-70 BPM range up to 150 and even above. I often choose an uncommon (for me) key on purpose to get myself into new sonic territory since I can get repetitive with my music when using the same key. Sometimes both the key and tempo are suggested in a drum kit/loop I may find interesting. Occasionally I’ll transpose key slightly or shift tempo up.down a bit to better fit where I find myself heading. Most often I choose a tempo and key far from whatever i used most recently - I guess I tend to get bored easily and am always looking for greener pastures! ;)
Thanks that's interesting you purposely choose keys that are uncommon for you, really made me think how restrictive I am being. I just found E Harmonic Minor to have the feel I needed for a lot of the stories I tend to write lately. I also learnt to play it OK and that was a real cool thing to discover as I figured I needed classical training to get to actually 'play' these notes with intention and expression like I can in this key. Like I said you made me think about this and I will branch out and make sure I try some new ones.

So you try and move the tempo away from what you are typically doing also, this must be a good exercise, I will try the same. Cheers!

MuttReason wrote:
23 Jan 2023
Used to stick to the 80-105bpm range mostly as I did a lot of lofi/downtempo tracks. These days I’m more into EDM stuff so usually range from 130 up to 170 or so for liquid d&b tracks.

Keys: I try to mix this up as much as possible. Most of my writing is via the Ableton Push2 so I tend to switch up between root keys and scales/modes a lot, trying out different hand shapes on the Push2 pads with different modes always yields happy chordal accidents.

I’m now at the point where even though I play keys (piano since age 8) I actually prefer using the Push2 instead of a MIDI keyboard, with a keyboard my hands often fall into familiar shapes and grooves whereas with the Push2 there is a lot more variety IME.
Yeah tempos tend to be genre specific so I guess you need to stick somewhere close to the typical there. I never tried above 150 bpm and think I might struggle with melodies once it gets crazy fast but you guys seem to do it so yeah maybe I should try it out to broaden my horizons a little :D

That's super interesting about using the push when you have piano skills! I think you are right, I never thought about it until now but since working exclusively in one key for a few months I am pretty sure I do the same things a lot, even get to points where I start writing a lead and have to stop because it's one I did before. Now I really want to branch out more with my keys lol. Thanks for the comment!

RobC
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Post 29 Jan 2023

The way I work is still experimental, so I gotta test it a bit more before sharing ideas.
There's still a good chance that it could be great for a play or an orchestral piece, but too complicated for the average listener (including me!) to enjoy.

But for tempo, when I saw the possibility in Ableton, where the tempo can follow the performance - well, simply as that, you can have a natural tempo for your song.

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Quarmat
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Location: Europe

Post 29 Jan 2023

I find myself hanging around Fmin or Bb and 120~ish bpm all the time.

thedjjudah
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Joined: 02 Dec 2016

Post 29 Jan 2023

I normally work at 170-180, 4/4. I might slow down to 140 in my breakdowns. I almost always use Amin and C and then transpose up and down.

Although I really like the sound of Dmin. It's just that my hands are used to playing the white keys only.

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DaveyG
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Post 30 Jan 2023

For me tempo is either a genre-typical one or sometimes I lazily use whatever the default is on the synth/sequencer and then tweak it up and down after I have a few notes happening. It's not unusual for me to change the tempo by 10 or 20 BPM during the song development.

For key, I often have a melody or idea before I start so that narrows down the choice but if I want to start from a truly blank slate I've been known to browse pages like this to see what leaps out: https://www.biteyourownelbow.com/keychar.htm
Who can resist "melancholy womanliness" or "feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress"? Other times I browse though Scaler and choose a weird scale I have never heard of - it doesn't always work but it's fun trying.

And sometimes I don't worry about key at all. I just mash some samples together and make it up from there. A little discordance can be good for you. :thumbs_up:

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selig
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Post 30 Jan 2023

Popey wrote:
23 Jan 2023
A lot of the time I will start with a kick I like and the key I work in is decided by the key of the kick. I have no real rules or preferences for a key and sometimes just jam a melody or chords on my push2 and then see what key they are actually in.
Ha - just realized I have been doing this too, in some of my recent tracks. I MAY tune the kick up/down a semitone or so if it feels better, but still if I’m starting with the drums the kick more often dictates the key of the song.

Tempo is often just a general feeling based on mood, either slow, medium, or fast.

That said I also realize from reading the comments here I don’t do ‘genres’. I don’t decide to do a drums and bass track then choose a tempo based on the accepted ranges of the genre. I work back from the inspiration - so if I hear a drums and bass track and am inspired, I will do something in that range not because it’s the range of the genre but rather because it’s the range of the specific track that inspired me.
I should also point out that in the end, the results are often unrecognizable as belonging to the original genre because I’m so ignorant of genres other than generalities. For example, I know drums and bass tracks are ‘fast’, but I never associate any specific tempo/range with the genre, nor any other factors that would identify the specific genre.

This topic is generating very interesting conversations IMO, it’s always interesting (and often inspiring) to hear how others approach the creative process.
Selig Audio, LLC

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mcatalao
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Post 31 Jan 2023

Hi!

For me, tempo depends on the type of song, and even style.

Keys, also depends a lot on the kind of song, but in instrumentals it's a bit arbitrarial. I'm more proficient with natural keys or "whiter" tones in the piano (CDFG Bflat) and their relatives, but i might transpose these, specially if the song will have vocals, so that it better accomodates the singer.

More important thant tempo, is probably time signature, imho. I tend to write songs with lyrics and vocals in 4/4, but everything else i try to vary. But i like a lot to write in ternary and composite Time Signatures - but most will be something like 3/4, 6/8, 12/8, 5/4, 7/4. 6/8 is particularly inspirational, and i make a lot of instrumentals with it.

BTW, i like a lot to write at the piano with the most simple arrangement, usually a Reason project with life is what you make it (reason pianos). For lead stuff, i also like to use the EWI, but i also play all my wind instruments, like flutes, recorder, bagpipes, percussions, melodica, harmonica, all in the name of more organic tracks.

Would be interesting to know how people are writting, do you input your stuff directly into reason's sequencer, or do you use a midi keyboard?

Cheers,
MC

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mcatalao
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Post 31 Jan 2023

selig wrote:
30 Jan 2023

Tempo is often just a general feeling based on mood, either slow, medium, or fast.

That said I also realize from reading the comments here I don’t do ‘genres’. I don’t decide to do a drums and bass track then choose a tempo based on the accepted ranges of the genre. I work back from the inspiration - so if I hear a drums and bass track and am inspired, I will do something in that range not because it’s the range of the genre but rather because it’s the range of the specific track that inspired me. (...)
Yep, tempo is also related to mood, and inspiration. I often start without a specific defined tempo, I'll just improv on the piano, and go forward and backward from fast to slow stuff till something interesting comes out. I then specify the tempo and record it in reason (btw, it would be great to have midi retrospective recording so that this process would be more natural).

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arnigretar
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Location: Iceland

Post 01 Feb 2023

Keys - just how I feel at the moment. Tempo - it depends if I'm working on ambient track (then usual 90-110) or if it's ambient techno / acid techno (120-140). it's been a long time since I did jungle/dnb/breakbeat but that's when I was young (then it was 150-180).

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