What are Beats Per Minute and what can BPM tell you?

You might hear the term “BPM” a lot from doctors or fitness enthusiasts, but what does it mean? The “Beats Per Minute” metric isn’t just useful for determining your heart rate! In the world of A/V content creation, knowing the BPM is useful as well. To get a better understanding of BPM and how it can be used in your creative process, here’s a quick guide.

How to measure the BPM in Music

If you have some musical background, you may be able to determine the BPM of a song fairly easily. Sheet music contains instrumentation written out in musical notation, which is divided into small sections called measures. In a song, each measure consists of a series of music notes that are the melody and harmony.

Time signatures determine how many beats are in a measure, which is then used by the composer to determine how many notes to allow in each measure. Therefore, the tempo determines how fast the music is performed. So when you count how many beats are in one minute of a song played at a specific tempo, you can quickly determine the Beats Per Minute or BPM.

And if you’re pressed for time, count the beat tab in 15 seconds of music, and then multiply that number by 4. Voila!

How to Use BPM and Tempo in Your Creative Projects

What are the benefits of this? Music that is played at a specific tempo will generally set a specific mood for a video or for any project where the aim is to evoke a certain emotion in the audience. Generally, the higher the BPM of a song, the faster the song, which is perfect for scenes full of joy, excitement, or that need to move rapidly or intensely. Meanwhile, a lower BPM means the song is slower, which is fitting scenes that are sad, dramatic or romantic.

What is the importance of understanding BPM?

The tempo of a song is as important as the notes and rhythms being played, and BPM is one of the best units of measure for describing tempos. Those with experience can immediately determine what tempo is conveyed by the words “allegro” or “vivace.” In addition to hearing the phrase “60 BPM,” “100 BPM,” or “120 BPM,” they should be able to sense that tempo in their minds.

Your songwriting process can also be aided by understanding BPM. The tempo of most popular songs today ranges from 100 to 140 BPM. Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” clocks in at 138 BPM, while ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” is exactly 100 BPM. A 120 BPM tempo is considered by many songwriters to be the ideal tempo for crafting a hit.

In contrast, many hip-hop songs have slower tempos, which allow MCs to maximize their syllable counts. Examples are Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Adele’s “Rumour Has It.”

For more information watch this video

Video Credit: theonlyjonesy

BPM on a Metronome

Musicians use metronomes to determine the tempo (or bpm) of a piece.

Lets say that I want to practice a brand new piece of music that I have never heard before. The tempo of the piece should be indicated at the top of the page. You can write this marking in beats per minute (example: Quarter note = 120 bpm) or as tempo markings (example: Allegro = 140 bpm).

In the absence of an internal sense of time, I would need to use my metronome to determine the speed of 120 bpm. Beats per minute (bpm) is the primary measure of tempo in metronomes. As a result, I would set my metronome to 120.

A second piece of information I would need would be which note value received the beat. Quarter notes and eighth notes are most commonly used. By looking at the time signature, I can determine this.

SongArtistBPM / Tempo
Hey JudeThe Beatles74 bpm
Bridge Over Troubled WaterSimon and Garfunkel80 bpm
My GenerationThe Who96 bpm
Eye Of The TigerSurvivor109 bpm
RespectAretha Franklin115 bpm
Buddy HollyWeezer121 bpm
Party Rock AnthemLMFAO130 bpm
Hotel CaliforniaThe Eagles147 bpm
Hound DogElvis175 bpm
Tutti-FruttiLittle Richard185 bpm

Whenever you need these tempos, you can recall them by remembering these songs!

Quick Questions

Is beats per minute same as tempo?

The basic measure of time in music is the beat tracker, which is generally measured as the number of beats per minute. Music can be considered rhythmic when it follows a pattern in time. The human heartbeat is a good example of how the two differ.

Does Spotify tell you BPM?

Use Spotify’s song attributes to your advantage

Your playlist can be sorted based on a number of Spotify attributes, including: BPM – The song’s tempo. Energy – The energy of a song – the higher the value, the more energetic.

Do songs ever change BPM?

There were tempo changes in music before click tracks. The talented musicians, however, did not do this randomly. In analyzing dozens of songs, we discovered that many (actually, most) of them would speed up at the end of a chorus, verse, or solo and then drop back down again.