You love tachymeters, I love tachymeters, everyone just can’t enough of tachymeters! In all seriousness though, what the heck is a tachymeter and why is it printed on the frame of every watch I’ve owned? Ok, so far these are all things you could and should be saying to yourself. A tachymeter is actually really handy if you know how to use it, and there are tons of practical uses for this outside of music, but that’s not why you’re here on this page.
I recommend looking for a video online that gives you some fun ways to use a tachymeter outside of music if you’re interested, but right now we’re going to look at how to use this to find the tempo of a song without a metronome. This will work for almost any music you hear, but it’s very handy on the marching band or drum corps field when you want to quickly verify tempo during rehearsal or even a performance at a competition.
To begin, press the tachymeter button on the side of your watch to start the timing hand inside the watch. If you don’t have a tachymeter button you can use the second hand as it crosses the 12 o’clock position. Now the easiest way to do this is in the 4/4 time signature, just count out 15 measures of the music. When you get to the downbeat of the 16th measure stop the timing hand and that timing hand on the watch face will point to the tempo on the tachymeter.
So as an easy example lets take a song that is at 120bpm in 4/4. It will take you exactly 30 seconds to count out 15 full measures at that tempo. So when you stop the timer it lands on 120 on the tachymeter. But what about songs that aren’t in 4/4? Well, its the same concept, only a little more difficult to count out. What we’re really doing is just counting out 60 quarter-notes worth of space. So instead of counting out measures, you can instead count out 60 quarter-notes of space which means you need to stop the timer when you say “61”. This will give you the same result and it almost doesn’t matter what time signature you’re listening to. (Keeping in mind that if the song is in 6/8 or 12/8 the tachymeter is telling you the tempo in dotted quarters if that’s what you counted out.)
Now, lastly, what if the song is in 5/8 or 7/8? Well, you can do it the same way! Because if the song is in 7/8, for example, that means every other measure will feel off the beat, but then the next measure you’ll feel back on the beat. So if you’re looking for the quarter-note pulse, you’ll just have to feel the song in 7/4 (basically combine the measures of 7/8 into one measure). Then just count the quarter-note as usual to find the tempo! This method also works if the song is in mixed meter and bounces around different feels throughout, just keep the quarter-note going in your head and you’ll get the correct tempo of the song.
Enjoy your newfound power and go impress your friends.