Song and tempo maps are highly useful tools in the studio. At the start of every session if songs aren’t mapped out there are often mistakes that can potentially take hours to fix. This guide is meant to help you communicate to your Engineer things like song and chord structures, time signatures, the BPM of a song and any other pertinent song information that will eventually make its way into a session file regardless of what Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) your Engineer uses. In order to be able to map out a song correctly there are some components of music that we need to take a closer look at. They are as follows:
- Tempo- Simply put this is the speed at which any given song is played at and is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM). The higher the BPM the faster the pace of the song. In the studio this is what sets the pace of a click track which we use during tracking to help everything line up properly.
- Time Signatures- At the most basic level, time signatures let us break down a song into repetitive mathematical segments that we can sub divide into measures and beats The most common time signature is 4/4.
- Measures/Bars- Measures are what we use to sub divide a song into smaller pieces. We number them from start to finish and this is what we use as the base of our song map.
- Song Parts- The parts of a song are what we use to break down measures into. The basic parts of a song are the introduction, verses, prechorus, choruses, bridge and outro.
Now that we have the pieces we need to know we can put them in a map. Maps range from simple song breakdowns to full on sheet music. Here is a simple example:
From these simple breakdowns we can take the information that we have above and plug them into a session file that looks like this:
The end result is that we can map out the entire song from start to finish to a grid. We can also label each section of a song. This gives us the ability in the studio to properly line each take up to the same portion of a song because we know exactly where we are within a given song. If you are able to create a session before going into the studio this can save hours in time and money by adding things like scratch tracks and markers with color coordination.
-S. F. Shields
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