Watch the Changing Tempo online guitar lesson by Vicki Genfan from Acoustic Rhythm Survival Guide
Tempo refers to 'speed' or how fast or slow you play something. Changing the tempo of your chord progression – or song- will have a profound effect on how the music is perceived. We respond very intensely to tempo and at certain times we may prefer to hear something slow or fast because it gives us a certain kind of energy.
The best way to experience this is to go through your own music collection and pick out two songs – one that's really slow in tempo, the other super fast. Play each one and notice how you feel.
One of my favorite ways to 'trip myself up' with my own tunes is to play them at a completely different tempo... and watch what happens to my lyrical interpretation. It completely changes. Fun!
TRY THIS: There are two things I'd like you to do; first, play something you're familiar with at its 'original' tempo. Then either speed it up or slow it down and again, notice how it makes you feel.
Next – try changing tempo 'mid-song'. For examples of this check out the Beatle's 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'. Not only do they change tempo between verse and chorus, but also the verses are in 3/4 time and the chorus is in 4/4. It's a great example of how you can really add a new element to a song midstream. Also, check out Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up' for a great tempo change that happens about 4 minutes into the song, but takes it out on a whole different 'vibe' than it starts.
Last, but not least, check out my arrangement of Norwegian Wood
and listen to the instrumental section and how it changes tempo and time signature, but comes back in the end to the original feel. The tempo change starts around 2:26.