Beats per minute is the metric used to describe the tempo of a song. It brings a little science and mathematics to the intuitive notion that a song is either slow, fast or somewhere in between. Knowing a song’s BPM, though, is more than a matter of idle curiosity. It can be crucial information for songwriters, DJs, choreographers or those trying to get fit. In fact, it is a fundamental consideration for anyone who really needs to use music for a specific purpose.
Determining BPM is easy
Working out the BPM of a song is relatively simple. It’s literally a matter of playing the piece, tapping out the beats and counting how many there are each minute. If you’re pushed for time, you can simply count for 15 seconds then multiply by four. Of course, if you’ve got a playlist with hundreds of songs to work through, that can still take a while, but technology has a solution. The Get Song BPM tool will give you the song BPM for anything in its extensive database. There are literally millions in there, so it’s well worth a look.
The tool is designed with the digital age in mind, and that means flexibility. People typically approach BPM from one of three angles:
- They want to find the BPM of a specific song – in which case they can look it up by title or artist on the database.
- They want to find the BPM of their own composition or recording – a simple drag and drop will analyze the BPM of any audio file.
- They want to find a song with a specific BPM – simply enter the BPM and the genre, and the tool will come up with a playlist.
You might still be wondering why this BPM information is so important to people. Let’s take a look at that next.
Composing to a specific tempo
Any composer will want to know what the tempo of their song is, although they will usually calculate this using a simple tapper during the composition phase as opposed to after the event. However, there are some exceptions to this. We have all heard examples of how changing the tempo of a song can completely change the way an audience engages with it. Wonderwall by Oasis is a prime example, and when you compare the original with the Mike Flowers Pops “easy listening” style cover version, you can barely recognize that it is the same song.
Clearly, then, changing the tempo can have a profound effect on a song, and when a singer experiments with something a little different, perhaps singing a familiar song at a faster tempo during a live performance, it is handy to have a recording to analyze later – after all, if it went down well, they want to be able to repeat the magic!
On other occasions, a composer might be constrained by the rules of their composition as to the BPM they need to deliver. This is the case for certain types of dancing, for example a foxtrot is danced to music at around 120 BPM, while a quickstep is 200 to 210 BPM.
Finding music for a target tempo
More commonly, though, you are likely to start out with a target BPM and then seek out songs that fulfil your purpose. The dancing example is one such situation. TV shows like Dancing With the Stars make a point of matching seemingly improbable songs with ballroom-style dance routines. The reason they work is not just coincidence – it is all about finding a song with the right BPM.
Anyone who has tried to DJ at a party will also have experienced the importance of knowing the BPM of a song – although they might not have realized it at the time. Ever had that experience when it all seems to be going well, everyone is dancing, and then you make a wrong move with the song choice and the dance floor empties? Aim for consistency, or subtle changes in tempo from one song to the next and there’s far less chance of that happening.
Music to suit your activities
The great thing about the way we consume music now is that we can sort and reorder our playlist any way we want. We’re not just tied to listening to a particular album or changing the record or CD if we want something different. Most of us have hundreds of songs on our MP3 player or phone, and we can use BPM to set the best playlist to suit our activities.
Want some background music for your yoga? Researchers say around 70 BPM is perfect. Need something to keep you at a steady pace on a run? Aim for around 180 BPM.
Understanding BPM brings a whole new level of depth to the way you use and enjoy music.