Musicians tend to regard a specific tempo as appropriate for a given piece of music, while listeners’ preferences are little affected by tempo changes way beyond what can be perceived, according to empirical results. Recognising that a primary goal of groove-based music is to induce body movement, the present study explores whether the experience of groove and movement in music might reflect an optimal tempo for certain music examples, and whether this might be dissociated from general preference.
To show how music experience is affected by altering the tempo determined by the artist or producer.
Stimuli were original recordings of instrumental ensemble music and versions of these in which the tempo was altered by 20%, 10%, +10%, or +20% by means of DSP software. Listeners rated 14 adjectives in response to each music example.
As a function of tempo, ratings of rapid and intense increased while ratings of calm decreased. Ratings associated with aesthetic or musical evaluation, such as good, groovy, and swinging were lower for decreased tempi but insignificantly altered for increased tempi.
The notion of optimal tempo found some support in the fact that although tempo was linearly related to adjectives associated with speed, ratings of evaluative adjectives were not systematically higher for any altered tempo. The question remains whether optimal tempo is determined by the melody or other structural properties of the composition, the musical arrangement, or performance characteristics.