Are tempos to blame for lack of energy?

At the last couple dress rehearsals for a musical, some directors see the lack of energy on stage and decide that the tempos are to blame for it.

Let's look at the journey of the tempos during the process of a musical: the music director sets the tempos for songs during music rehearsals. Then come in dance rehearsals, where tempos are adjusted to work with the dancing. Then come run-throughs where tempos are changed again. Finally come the last few tech rehearsals, where music directors need to make sure that the tempos last decided on are kept by the musicians while they learn the music.

After having gone through so many tempo, it gets hard to remember which one is right, but it's just at that time when everyone needs the most consistency that some directors will  blame the lack of energy on tempos being too slow. The main reason for the lack of energy in the last few runs is usually the lack of an audience. The audience will bring applause, thus filling in the silence between the songs which will tighten up the transitions. It will also bring energy to the performers. But some directors will ask music directors to speed up all of the songs.

Music directors end up having to make everything faster, which is problematic for the following reasons:
  1. It makes music directors doubt their own sense of what the right tempos are.
  2. It confuses the musicians who are trying to learn the music and who end up not having a clear sense of the songs. 
  3. The cast gets lost and starts panicking because tempos are different, and that worry pulls them out of their performance.
This confusion between low energy and slow tempo is a problem. Tempos may impact energy, but changing the tempos of every single song of a show are the cause for the lack of energy is not a realistic solution. 

Photo from http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/08/tom_dixon_to_gi.php


  1. good thoughts. I would add that a good musician can energize a phrase at any tempo. I think of the difference between black gospel and southern gospel. Black gospel tempos can be as much as half the tempo on the same song as white gospel. The difference is the way the meter is subdivided, depth of feeling, and level of improvisational fill...every bit as energetic.

    But in the context (ensemble numbers with pit, dancing, and singers)...changing tempos at the last minute could be really rough...specially on the dancers.

  2. Agreed: speed does definitely not create energy. A slow tempo can be well energized, while making all tempos faster at a rehearsal will create panic rather than energy!


Related Posts with Thumbnails