Know Your Tempos — Led Zeppelin

Posted on January 24, 2021

 Know Your Tempos Led Zeppelin

If you’re like me and you’ve ever made the mistake of watching Whiplash, you probably sent your palm through your forehead at the bit where Fletcher points to a metronome marking and tells Andrew to “count me a 215” before he starts going on about “I am to understand that you cannot read tempo?!”. He also calls Andrew a retard, because edgy movie is edgy. If only I knew that the film was just getting started… (more thoughts on that here).

Well, despite the fact that “read tempo” is a phrase that I’ve never heard a real musician use, you can indeed develop a skill like this. If you see some sheet music that says “♩ = 215” and you don’t have a metronome on you, all you need to do is sing a song that you know was recorded at 215. Voilà. You’ll have a pretty good idea of how fast you’re supposed to play. It won’t be as accurate as using a click, but it’s a good trick to have if you ever have to deal with a raging shithead band director who doesn’t know how music works. Ahem. Excuse me.

Anyhoo, this will be the first in a series of posts called “Know Your Tempos”. I was inspired to do this by Todd Bishop over at Cruise Ship Drummer. He has a few posts with this tag where he maps out the tempos of songs by a particular artist. If you get a good mental collection of these things, you’ll have a decent reference for a variety of tempos. Or tempi. Whatever.

I’ll start with Led Zeppelin because this was the band that made me realize I could use this trick. When I first transcribed “How Many More Times” back in 2014, I clocked the song at 144. Whenever I saw a tempo marking around that number, I would just sing the bass line from that tune to get a good idea of how fast to play. Who needs a metronome? I thought I was a genius, but I didn’t think about doing this with any other song…

As fun pieces of trivia, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Tea For One” are tied for the slowest Zeppelin songs at 40 BPM. “In The Light” is the slowest 4/4 tune at 64. Tragically, the fastest is “Hot Dog” at 238, although you could count the samba section of “Fool In The Rain” as a fast cut-time, which would bring it to 248. But who knows if that’s how that band did it.

For more useless but interesting trivia, the mean Led Zeppelin tempo is 114.7, the median is 104.5, and the mode is 100, which shows up four times.

You can download a full .csv file at the bottom of this post to see the BPM of every Zeppelin tune from all 9 albums (with major tempo changes), including the hidden treasure “Hey Hey What Can I Do?”. To make life easier, here’s a highlight reel:

  • 40 — “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (Dotted Quarter) 
  • 50 — “Dazed and Confused” (Dotted Quarter) 
  • 64 — “In The Light” (Main Groove) 
  • 68 — “No Quarter” (Main Groove) 
  • 70 — “When The Levee Breaks” 
  • 76 — “Ten Years Gone” (Main Riff) 
  • 80 — “Kashmir” 
  • 84 — “Stairway To Heaven” (Drum Entrance) 
  • 88 — “The Ocean” 
  • 90 — “Whole Lotta Love” 
  • 96 — “Good Times Bad Times” 
  • 100 — “Ramble On” 
  • 105 — “Gallows Pole” (Drum Entrance) 
  • 110 — “Trampled Underfoot” 
  • 114 — “Immigrant Song” 
  • 120 — “We’re Gonna Grove” 
  • 124 — “Fool In The Rain” (Samba Section) 
  • 131 — “Fool In The Rain” (Main Shuffle) 
  • 144 — “Achilles Last Stand” 
  • 150 — “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” 
  • 160 — “D’yer Mak’er” 
  • 165 — “Black Dog” 
  • 170 — “Rock and Roll” 
  • 175 — “Communication Breakdown” 
  • 190 — “Dazed and Confused” (4/4 Solo) 
  • 215 — “Wearing And Tearing” 
  • 238 — “Hot Dog” 

Kind of a sleepy post this week; my band’s EP has kept me busy. Hopefully, I’ll be back next Sunday with something more interesting.

Download CSV.

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