The Judge – Twenty One Pilots – Metric ModulationSteve Ley
"The Judge" from Twenty One Pilot's latest album, Blurryface, features some interesting tempo changes. The above notation relates to bridge section of the song, at the point where the tempo drops back (2:55).
This kind of time change is known as Metric Modulation. It involves using a common subdivision to bridge two tempi. The simplest and most common Metric Modulations instruct the player to halve or double the tempo. However, in The Judge, the tempo change is a little trickier.
Under normal circumstances, one keeps the pulse at a constant speed and adjusts the rate the subdivisions as written. However, when a Metric Modulation is used, it is the subdivision that maintains a constant rate and the speed of the beat (tempo) that changes!
In the example above, the Metric Modulation instructs the reader to play the triplets in the first measure and the sixteenth notes in the second measure at the same rate. This will effectively cause the tempo to drop by 25% (from 83 to 62 Beats Per Minute) as there are four sixteenth-notes per beat in the second measure, up from three triplets in the first.
Breaking down the Metric Modulation:
The metric modulation instruction (seen above beat one of the second measure) has two components. The first communicates that one triplet in the original tempo is equal to one sixteenth-note in the new tempo:
The second component is a complementary tempo mark, which is included in parenthesis to inform the player exactly what the new tempo is:
Using a common subdivision/Metric Modulation to change tempo in a song takes the guesswork out of time change and keeps the band tight.
Listen to the portion of the clip below to hear the tempo change in context: