I am trying to recreate a song using midi in my DAW (I use cubase). The song is in 12/8 time. I thought I was doing everything right except when I finished the first few bars I played back and discovered that the music was playing back really slowly. Then did I discover the little dot next to the quarter note symbol at the top of the page next to the BPM. Does this have something to do with it? Here is an image of the top of the sheet music.

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It certainly might.

The tempo marking is a pretty flexible thing. In this case, it's telling you that 110 dotted quarter notes should be played per minute. Whilst tempo is often specified in terms of normal quarter notes, it doesn't have to be.

As to why it's really slow, I'll take a stab in the dark and guess that the tempo in the DAW (that is, the beats per minute) is specificed in terms of quavers? If you set quaver = 110, the music will be three times slower than you want. It could also be specified in in crotchets.

DAWs have a (somewhat) bad habit of equating 'beats per minute' with 'crotchets per minute'. This is fine in 4/4, but causes the problems you are currently seeing when you work in other time signatures.

You can convert any tempo marking to crotchets per minute by multiplying it by an appropriate fraction. That makes it sound really complicated. For example, to convert dotted crotchets per minute to crotchets per minute, we start by noticing there are 3/2 crotchets per dotted crotchet. So you multiply by 3/2. It's pretty simple.

  • When you set 12/8 as your project tempo in cubase you basically have 12 quavers per bar as you suggested so wouldn't the correct tempo be 165bpm to compensate? Also, why can't it just say 165bpm at the top next to Bpm in that case? – armani Feb 10 '18 at 10:36
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    To convert from dotted crotchets per minute to quavers per minute, you need to multiply by the amount of quavers per dotted crotchet (3). So, the equivalent should be 330 quavers per minute. Alternately, if specified in crotchets, the answer is 165 as you suggest. BPM is a bit of a slippery concept. Technically, there are only four beats in a 12/8 bar. Each 'beat' is three quavers long. But DAWs tend to specify tempo in crotchets per minute, and a crotchet is not a beat in 12/8. – endorph Feb 10 '18 at 10:43
  • I think you mean to say that if you set quaver = 110, the result will be 1/3 times slower, not 3 times slower. In other words, the tempo will be 2/3 of the desired tempo. In this case, 73.333 rather than 110. – ahazybellcord May 18 '20 at 16:56

This equates to 330 eighth notes per minute.

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