Beats per Minute

Beats per Minute

Just wondering what the general opinion is as to the acceptable tempo of session tunes where someone is likely to say "that was a nice speed". I know its personal preference but sometimes tunes are obviously too fast or a bit on the slow side. The reason i ask is because i am revamping my right hand technique for the banjo and realise i have to go back to the metronome to keep things steady while im learning and therefore trying to work out a good bpm for an initial starting point and possibly a target point when competence improves. Cheers

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Re: Beats per Minute

Around the basic heartbeat, approximately 120 bpm… And depending on what you’re playing and who with, up and down from that centre…

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I’m new to all of this as well so could I ask if that is 120 bpm meaning 120 quavers a minute in a 6/8 tune or 120 groups of three quavers a minute?

Also when using a metronome how is it best to set it up. I find it easiest to play 6/8 tunes with a click of the metronome for each group of three notes. For hornpipes I would like to go for a click of the metronome on beats 2 and 4 to give it swing but due to my apparent inability to synchonise pick-up notes with this ususally end up with the metronome clicking on every beat

Thanks for any further advice

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Um, ceolachan get down to the doctors, i think your tachycardic. 70 - 75 bpm is about average for a resting adult. 120 bpm musicaly sounds quite frantic to me- so begineth the debate.

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If I’m at home practicing, I like to set it to 100 for Reels and 120 for jigs.
For Hornpipes I prefer it to click once per 4-beats (and therefore I set it fairly low…can’t quite remember but i think around 80).

It’s different for everyone I guess…I kinda like those speeds above, as when it’s faster sometimes the tunes don’t quite sound so clear (but sure it depends who’s playing them I suppose!) πŸ™‚

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Newty ~When dancing rather than resting, 120, along with stepping… 120 is a known average… But, I like andy69s suggestion, take it easy ~ 100 is a nice average lope for just laid back playing…

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& at rest, basically 2 x 60, still in synch with the heartbeat…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse

"A normal pulse rate for a healthy adult, while resting, can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM), although well conditioned athletes may have a healthy pulse rate lower than 60 BPM."

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Restful, and up to dance tempo, though some folks push it ~ depending on the tune ~ roughly 90 - 135 bpm… But some folks like to push it, and slides are too often abused this way, mistaking speed for ‘lift’ and ‘interest’…

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ceolachan is right. I worked in a studio that made advertising jingles and we used 120bpm because it was fast paced, but in line with the heart and is divisible by 30 frames a second.

Simon,

In 6/8, setting the metronome to each 8th note at 120 bpm would be the same as setting the metronome to 40 and setting it on each group of 3 notes

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On the infrequent occasion that I use a metronome, I like to play jigs at about 108 ( each click equals one "HAH-ta-tah" ), and reels at about 100 ( each click equals one "RUMP-a-dye-dle" ).

One year at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, I clocked some of the nightly concert performers’ cadences, and this is where many of them played — Siobhan & Willie Kelly, Jack & Jimmy Coen, et al… — for jigs. It was actually quite remarkable — so much so that I remember it vividly to this day, almost 10 years later. Every single jig played by these performers was rock solid at 108, as if they had earpiece metronomes (which they of course did not).

Their reel cadences were a bit quicker than mine — around 110-114. I can play there if I have to, but I’m not really good enough to enjoy playing there as much. When I play for dancers, I do have to ratchet it up into the 120’s for reels, but that’s throwing caution to the wind, and no chance for ornamentation or variation — I’m in pure survival mode at that speed.

100 reels & 108 jigs just *feel* right to me. YMMV.

When I’m "wood-shedding", I play down in the 80’s-ish.

I hope this helps, Newty.

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I’ve never really got a handle on what bpm metronome settings translates as in real terms. But from the discussion above 120bpm = 60 bars per minute for a jig or reel. Which would work out at around (crosses eyes, counts on fingers…) 32 seconds to play through either tune type once ? (Assuming a 32 bar tune).

Is this the right way to convert these time stats?

I thing this is probably the speed I play jigs at if I’m relaxed & playing on my own, but I probably preferentially play reels a bit slower. Session speed is probably faster, particularly for the reels (that is faster than me playing on my own, not than 120bpm), and celi band playing is definately faster than myself playing for fun.

Cheers - Chris

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just as it says, beats per minute
So, it depends what one calls a "beat." Re-read the previous post, the stuff in parenthesis; it explains it well.

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BTW, in certified, old-time contests, one plays three tunes in 4 minutes. The three have to be a hoe-down (reel), a waltz, and tune of choice that is NOT a hoedown or waltz, (for example, a jig). The tunes are usually played through twice, highlighting differences in ornaments. If one takes longer than 4 minutes, one loses points. The tunes stop and start independently of each other, not like the "set" played at sessions, which, in my experience, flows one tune to the next without stopping. The speeds of the reels and jigs in old-time is similar to that in ITM, from what I’ve heard. Maybe a little faster for contests, especially playing Texas style.

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wow -120 bpm for hearbeat. Too much Red Bull and Coffee!

all kidding aside. 120 is brisk. Probably ok for show-offy players who don’t let others in. But for mere mortals, my sense is mid 80’s unless the players are reaaaaaally good.

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If you visit this link (a page on a website maintained by me) …

http://www.bristol.rapper.freeuk.com/rapper_jig_library.htm

… you will find a selection of jigs (midi files) at 140 - a speed suitable for rapper sword dancing ( a tradition from NE England). At the end of the page I’ve set a few of the jigs into medleys, with a choice of 130, 140, 150 and 160 speeds.

These files were created for demonstration / educational purposes, but have actually been used at practices on more than one occasion when there was no musician available!

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Y’all ever play for dancers? At that point, your notions of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are pretty inconsequential. πŸ˜‰

There was a time where the music and dance were inseparable, and musicians’ notions of tunes being too fast or too slow were about as useful as an extra belly button.

Not anymore, thankfully, in my opinion, but still, I think it’s handy to think of the ‘ideal’ speeds for this music being the ones that are danced to, just as it’s proper to think of the music, which is far more often listened to now, as still being dance music.

That being said, the old folks at the VFW doing the Clare Lancers want it FAST while the girls in the curls want it a bit slower so they can perform their complicated kicks, leaps and whatnot.

I like to take it easy and I like to let it fly (why limit yourself?) but if there was an ideal tempo for dance music it’d be the one you’d dance to, go figure.

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Dance ~ Yes…

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Zippy, get the nurse to up your drip… 😎

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If we deal with just the one, 120, if we’re talking about reels, it is applied to the primary beats, so rather than 4/4, it is 2 beats to the measure, or as 2/2. For jigs it is the same, 2 beats to the measure… For one’s pulse, 120 is roughly double resting rate, as a healthy average, and 120 would not be unhealthyl for an active pulse, as in dancing…

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I spent an hour or so timing some of the videos at http://comhaltas.ie (actually downloads of the audio). I included many of my favorites and mostly excluded ceili bands, though I threw in two Under-18 bands out of curiosity. The format is Players, Rhythm, Video Clip #, Tempo. I don’t think this site will allow me to line things up, so sorry if it’s hard to read. Tempo is in beats per minute with two beats per bar. Listed from slow to fast in each rhythm.

Michael King hornpipes 244_2 72
Tara Breen hornpipes 244_1 76
Edel Fox hornpipes 260_1 77
Dylan Foley hornpipes 251_4 77
Bronwyn de Paor hornpipes 241_3 78
Maeve Flanagan hornpipes 250_2 84
Peter Horan hornpipes 252_5 92

Mairaid Corridan jigs 258_2 101
Maeve Flanagan jigs 242_3 110
James Mahon jigs 241_2 111
Sorcha Costello jigs 265_5 113
Kylie Moynagh jigs 257_3 113
Emma Sweeney jigs 241_4 116
Mike & Mary Rafferty jigs 242_5 116
Rowsome Family jigs 249_4 117
Billy McComiskey jigs 243_3 119
Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington jigs 252_6 121
Seamus Bugler & Paddy O’Donoghue jigs 257_5 125
John Whelan jigs 250_3 126
John McEvoy & John Wynne jigs 245_1 128
Mulcahy Family jigs 252_3 129

Carmel O’Dea reels 241_1 90
Carmel O’Dea reels 241_1 96
Erin McGeown reels 244_3 97
Kylie Moynagh reels 257_4 97
Maeve Flanagan reels 256_3 97
Bronwyn de Paor reels 241_3 97
Keith Gildea reels 244_5 98
Joan Hanrahan & Dympna O’Sullivan reels 266_5 99
Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington reels 252_4 99
Ernestine Healy reels 245_2 103
Joe & Joannie Madden reels 242_6 103
Fr. Charlie Coen reels 251_5 103
Jack Talty & David O’Brien reels 266_3 104
Session led by Billy McComiskey reels 250_5 104
Brian Conway & Maeve Flanagan reels 242_2 104
Joe & Joannie Madden reels 243_2 105
Laura Beagon reels 266_1 106
Billy McComiskey reels 242_4 106
Eugene Bender reels 250_1 107
Sean Walsh reels 245_4 107
O’Raghallaigh, O’Mahoney reels 240_6 107
Dylan Foley reels 252_2 107
Garry Shannon reels 246_3 108
5 young American fiddlers reels 250_4 109
Rose Flanagan & Dylan Foley reels 252_1 109
Deirdre & Eimear Reilly reels 258_5 109
Bobby Gardiner & Marcus Maloney reels 249_2 110
Tigh Na Coille Ceili Band reels 256_5 110
MacDarra O’Raghallaigh reels 254_1 110
Cruinniu reels 246_1 110
John McEvoy & John Wynne reels 245_1 111
Peter Staunton reels 245_3 111
Fergus McGorman reels 244_4 111
Mulcahy Family reels 248_1 111
Michael King reels 244_2 112
Tara Breen reels 244_1 112
Innis Og Ceili Band reels 256_6 112
Mick O’Connor & Oliver Diviney reels 241_5 113
John McEvoy & John Wynne reels 246_5 114
John Whelan reels 243_1 115
Brian Conway, Joannie Madden & Billy McComiskey reels 242_1 117

Re: Beats per Minute

well my choice is this.
reels metrospeed 99 to 104.
Jigs 115 to 119.
polkas 140
slides 142.
hornpipes 147 to 149.
marches 116 to 122.
slipjigs 113.
pints 1 to every 45 minutes.
god bless Dick Miles

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oh hornpipes, for solo dancing, blackbird etc 139.or as slow as the dancer wants.

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go with the beat of your heart and you can’t go wrong .

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120 by the measurement that GaryAMartin is using would be 240…

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Thanks everyone who answered.

& am I the only one who read:
>you will find a selection of jigs (midi files) at 140 - a speed >suitable for rapper sword dancing ( a tradition from NE

As *rappers* sword dancing?

& Next up we have M&M πŸ™‚

- Chris

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That’s great Gary, keeps me from thinking I should be playing faster than I do know πŸ™‚

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Wow Gary, fair play to you, good work.

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If it is sweet (or suite) music, are they sugar beets?

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ceolochan

What is the benefit of playing at 120 if the player can barely keep up with the pace.

I can play that fast. The question is "Why?" you lose the sense of the tune (unless you are one of those folks who have the technic to go that fast-unlike most mortals), the dancers (when you have them) get pi**y about the pace, and you run the risk of a ‘train wreck’ at high speed.

I know that the speed is everything currently- I have no problem with show-offy players-. But it seems something is lost in the quality of the tune.

I just spent some time with some older recordings of Tony McMahon, Joe Cooley and some others. I can tell you that-even though they could play at warp speed since there are occasional demonstrations- They didn’t as a rule.

It didn’t hurt their reputations as virtuosi.

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I dunno zippy. The Comhaltas vids Gary checked out are all above 120 (aka 240) for the most part, or right around there. The CDs the local girls with curls gave me to learn their favorite tunes from have the BPM listed right on the disc, 113 (aka 226) is what it says for reels.

The Johnny O’Leary book I had the pleasure of borrowing from a friend recently had BPM listed next to each transcription. Breathnach not only transcribed the dots O’Leary played, but timed all the tempos too. The reels are all in that range, 110-130, and it makes special note to say that when Johnny played faster, he was usually playing for set dancers. When not, he’d take it a little slower.

I’m no speed freak at all, but at the same time, I can’t stand being stuck in the mud at a slow tempo, you know what I mean? To each their own, be happy and enjoy, but hopefully we’re making people’s feet tap and not encasing them in cement. πŸ˜‰

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Where are you getting that the Comhaltas videos are all above 120? The fastest reel on my list is 117. Only five of the fourteen jigs are above 120.

There’s an interview with Johnny O’Leary that was rebroadcast (can’t recall if it was RTE or ClareFM) shortly after his death in which he bemoaned the fact that the dancers over time (decades, I think) demanded faster and faster tempos.

Also, Sliabh Luachra is probably not typical since the local predilection for polkas and slides, which are very fast, means that dancers tend to want reels and jigs played more like polkas and slides than they would be elsewhere.

Similarly, Donegal and Northern music is atypically fast with its heavy Scottish influence.

My rule of thumb for reels would be roughly:
Below 96 - unusually slow
97-103 - slow but not uncommonly so
104-112 - normal
113-120 - fast but not uncommonly so
Above 120 - warp speed

For reference, the time it takes to play 32 bars (typically AABB at 8 bars per part) is:
40 seconds = 96 bpm
39 seconds = 98 bpm
38 seconds = 101 bpm
37 seconds = 104 bpm
36 seconds = 107 bpm
35 seconds = 110 bpm
34 seconds = 113 bpm
33 seconds = 116 bpm
32 seconds = 120 bpm
31 seconds = 124 bpm
30 seconds = 128 bpm

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Delayed reaction…

Right on Gary, check, under 120. I was looking at the first number, thinking that was the double count. Same as O’Leary from the book, for himself, 110-120, for dancers, zoom.

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i timed quitea few of the older concertina players I like from Clare and reels were about 98 bpm