How to get faster without speeding up

You’re working in a sequencer, and you have a fixed tempo for your song. Think you’ve got a perfectly regular grid of time events? Think that with everything neatly arranged, that the speed stays the same throughout the song?

Think again.

Don’t get confused! What I’m referring to here is the difference between tempo and pace.

They’re not the same thing, and you’ve probably noticed it yourself. For example, a song might have a very fast tempo, but feel slow (for example a lot of electronic dance music). On the other hand, a song might have a slower tempo, but feel quicker (for example, a lot of pop or hip hop).

Tempo is a familiar concept to anyone with musical experience – either as a musician or as an electronic music composer. It’s the speed at which beats are counted. Faster tempos mean more beats in a set period of time, and less time between each beat. Pretty straightforward.

Pace is a related but distinctly different concept. While tempo is about how fast the grid is, pace is all about how fast the music feels. There are several factors that influence pace, such as groove and rate of change.

The most obvious example of this is half-time feel. This is where the tempo might be quite fast, but the song feels like it’s actually at half speed. Instead of the snare drum sounding on the 2nd and 4th beats, it only sounds on the 3rd.

So how do you get faster without speeding up? Keep the tempo steady! For the section of your song that you want to feel faster, use composition techniques that increase the pace. Use rhythmic/groove elements that emphasise the upbeat or give a double-time feel. Also increase the rate of change – not just by making sections shorter, but melodic/harmonic elements too (such as chord progressions or harmony parts).

Deliberate changing the pace independently to the tempo is a great technique for emphasising the contour of the song. Sections with a faster pace increase anticipation and excitement and sections with a slower pace provide relief and contrast. Read more about contour here:


  1. Yeah, the old trick of getting speed by reducing note duration and putting more notes, eheh.

  2. The other thing helps is the compressor technique.
    Attack and release times can change the perception of tempo – sometimes drastically.

  3. @ilter
    Certainly – by changing the speed of the sound envelopes, you can create a different sense of movement in the music.


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