Is there a “golden” tempo that is universally appealing, like the Golden Ratio is universally appealing visually? Not to my knowledge… nor search engine Google’s knowledge, for that matter. However, as I was setting a tempo for a piano étude I had composed a few decades ago, it turned out to be about 100 bpm. That was roughly 1 and 2/3 beats per second, or 1.666 approximated, which wasn’t far from 1.618 approximated that I knew to be the rounded value of the Golden Ratio.
As a result, I applied the Golden Ratio multiplier to 1 beat per second at which clocks tick, to get 97.08 bpm, which rounds nicely to 97 bpm without losing too much of a beat per minute (not that people can play that precisely). It was also close enough to 100 bpm for me to designate the tempo of my piece to be tempo aurea rather than any of the more common sheet music tempo markings, or the exact but arbitrary looking 100 bpm.
So while there isn’t any one tempo that is “golden” in the sense of being universally appealing, I’ll designate the Golden Tempo to be 97 bpm based on mathematics. With a digital metronome, you can bet anything I play that’ll be labeled in the range around 97 bpm, I’ll be setting the digital metronome to 97 bpm and learning to play it as such.
Interestingly enough, for the faster section of my piece, I chose to do 160 bpm, which is close enough to 157 bpm that I’d be willing to set it at 157 bpm. That’d be the mathematical inverse of the Golden Tempo. You see, the Golden Ratio is the only number in which its inverse has a difference of exactly 1 to itself. At 60 seconds a minute, I now divided 60 bpm by the inverse of the Golden Ratio and I got 157 beats. I could have easily gone with 162 bpm from 1.618 x 100 to get it on the same scale. However, that seemed way too easy to have created the inverse to the Golden Tempo. Hence, I chose the division option, to take care of the inverse property of the Golden Ratio rather than a symbolic multiplier that would be 162 bpm, and went with 158 bpm.
So without a universally appealing Golden Tempo, I’m going to designate it symbolically from the visual mathematical concept to be 97 bpm. Whether that makes my piece, or any piece, in that range sound better is debatable. But with the beautiful concept in my mind as I play them, I can tell you it definitely sounds better in my mind! 🙂