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Note Events Per Minute (Part 1)

September 26, 2011

A long time ago I did an analysis of speed and what sounds lively and fast. What is the fastest tempo that one need to play to be at the top edge of what still sounds ‘comprehensible’ to the human ear? I have always thought it’s roughly 600 note events per minute.

Listening to Vince Gill’s “Midnight Train” — it’s in 4/4 time with an underlying sixteenth note feel. With a metronome marking of 142 BPM (I clocked it using my Android app) that works out to 142 (beats / minute) * 4 (16ths notes / beat) or 568 sixteenth notes (i.e. note events) per minute.

It sounds fast — and to be in the inner circle of Nashville session players you probably need to play this fast. There are a few ‘cutting sessions’ on You Tube and this is about how fast they play.

To get there, scale back on the metronome to a comfortable zone. And figure out the good lines — write them out — rehearse them — and then bring them up to speed slowly.

More on this in my next post(s)…

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