The Guardian has just written a fascinating article looking at trends in pop music over the last six decades from an audio engineering perspective. It is based on The Echo Nest blog and shows things such as how music has got less acoustic over the decades, louder and and faster.
Tempo and quality
This reminded me of a study by Alex Wilson, a PhD student at the University of Salford, who for his final year project on our audio technology degree looked at changes in pop and rock music sound quality over a similar period.
As the graph below shows, Alex found that a slower music tempo is associated with higher sound quality. He suggested in his Dafx paper that this might be due to producers being able to apply higher production values to slower music. Think of a slow ballad where additional layers of strings or backing vocals are used to enrich the music.
Maybe this also extends to how the musicians play. Only last week my saxophone teacher was explaining how during fast passages I should do less and add more subtle expressive detail than in slow parts of the music. Do you agree? Please comment below.