For example, the song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin started out as an uptempo bluegrass song. The song was originally inspired by an article about a man who got drunk and shot at his girlfriend’s car. The judge asked the man what he had learned, and he said, “you can’t make a woman love you if she don’t”. It started out as a fast-paced, humorous song, but just wasn’t sitting well with Reid and Shamblin. One night, they slowed down the piano part, and the song became a powerful ballad about heartbreak and loss.
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” has a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 best songs of all time. Originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt, the song has been covered by an incredible amount of artists ranging from Boyz II Men to Adele. The song would not be what it is today if Shamblin and Reid hadn’t changed the tempo! Take a listen.
Playing with tempo is an awesome way to shake things up in your own songwriting. Do you write mostly ballads? Try your hand at an up-tempo song. Or take a ballad you’ve already written and speed it up, see how it changes the emotional tone of the song. If you write mostly uptempo songs, take some time to figure out how writing a ballad is different, or, again, take one of your songs and flip it on its head by making it a ballad. You will most likely find that tempo has a big impact not just on how the song sounds and feels, but on how you approach the writing process.
Now, put this into practice! You never know, a song you never thought you’d work on again may just turn out to be one of your best.