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WHAT IS BPM, AND HOW TO FIND IT
- 09 Nov 20
If you’re familiar with the term, but always thought, ‘what is BPM in music?’, we’re here to help.
Not to be confused with the BPM that stands for ‘business process management’ applications, what does BPM stand for when you’re using it as a music term: ‘Beats Per Minute’.
Stay tuned to find out everything you need to know about BPM.
What is BPM?
BPM is a way of measuring the tempo of a piece of music – ie, its speed or pace. So, a waltz will have a much lower BPM than a track that’s been created to make you want to hit the dancefloor, or push yourself to the max in a spin class.
Need to find music with a specific BPM for a project? Our super-simple search tool will give you a huge range of tracks to choose from.
For a quick dive into beats per minute, and how it can be useful when you’re creating content, we’ll look at:
- How to count the BPM in music
- What’s the most common BPM in music?
- How do you use BPM?
How to Calculate BPM in Music
Working out a track or piece of music’s BPM isn’t too tricky, but if you know a bit of music theory, then it’s much easier.
Music’s tempo (its speed/pace) is typically written at the start of its score – as a time signature, in the form of a fraction (4/4. 6/8, etc).
The top number represents the number of beats in each measure, or bar.
A particular note – eg a quarter note – is specified as the beat, and the amount of time between beats is a specified fraction of a minute.
The greater the BPM, the smaller the amount of time between successive beats.
The tempo determines the speed the music is performed at – so, when you count how many beats are in one minute of a song played at a specific tempo, you can work out the beats per minute. If the tempo is 60 BPM, then there is one beat per second – 120 BPM is thus twice as fast.
If you’re a DJ, knowing the BPM of your tracks is crucial, as it allows you to mix and beat-match seamlessly.
How to Find BPM
Get some tips on how to find out the BPM of a track in this video:
Want a quick hack for how to calculate BPM? Count the beats for 15 seconds, and then multiply that by four!
Or, if you’re using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), the software allows you to tap along to a beat for a few bars, and the system will then automatically detect the tempo – useful if you’re using a sample or a drum track and don’t know the genre or bpm.
There’s also plenty of software, apps and websites that feature bpm calculators. Try beatsperminuteonline.com or drop your music file into the song analyser on https://getsongbpm.com/tools/audio and you’re sorted!
Or, you could strike it lucky with a database – if you’re looking for the BPM of a popular track, try uploading the title into one of these databases:
All of Audio Network’s tracks have their tempo listed on their page, to make it easy to find what you need – such as ‘Carnival Nights’, which is 120 bpm.
What’s the Most Common BPM in Music?
There isn’t necessarily a standard BPM in music, however, most genres can be classified and identified by their BPM.
Some examples would be:
Slow waltz music is around 28 to 30 bars per minute (84 to 90 beats per minute). Waltz music is in 3/4 time and the first beat of a measure is strongly accented.
The Jive is one of a number of different swing dances that developed concurrently with the Swing style of jazz music in the mid twentieth century.
This group of dances also includes the Lindy hop and West and East Coast swing. The Jive is generally danced to music in a 4/4 Meter between 38 and 44 measures per minute (152 and 176 beats per minute).
Most reggae songs are written using the 4/4 meter with heavy emphasis on the backbeat.
The average tempo of a reggae tune ranges between 80–110 BPM, slightly slower than commercial pop. Reggae also features very idiosyncratic rhythmic patterns, with plenty of off-beat rhythms, usually staccato beats played by a guitar or piano (sometimes both) on the off-beats (also known as upbeats) of a measure.
This gives most reggae music a slightly ‘jumpy’ feel.
This ends to emphasise tone and atmosphere over traditional structure and rhythm, using textural layers of sound and often being influenced by other genres, ranging from avant-garde music to folk, jazz and world music, together with incorporating sounds from nature to create its simple, dreamy feel.
Professionalcomposers.com suggests that the BPM is around 50-80 – the lower you go, the more ambient the music will be!
Hip hop is more than a genre, it’s a cultural movement.
A lot of people use rap and hip hop synonymously, but strictly speaking, hip hop is a cultural movement, including music, whereas rap is a specific music technique.
The central feature of hip hop is the interplay between the rapper and the beat and weaving different beats and melodies together, often from samples, and at a BPM of between 60-100.
Jazz emerged in America around around the turn of the 20th Century and is characterised by its improvisations, syncopations and swing rhythms.
The BPM of jazz tracks can vary from extremely slow (ballads at 60 BPM) to very fast (Bebop at around 320 BMP).
The BBC reported that the average tempo of 2020’s top 20 best-selling songs is ‘a pulse-quickening 122 BPM’ – the highest its been since 2009 (124 BPM).
In more recent times, the average tempo of a UK pop single was 104 BPM. Most pop songs hover around 116 BPM, with the fastest at 150 BPM.
Hitting at around 110-170 BPM, rock music has a 4/4 time signature and is characterised by its youthful, rebellious energy, with driving rhythms, strong basslines and electric guitar riffs.
House music has a BPM of 115-130; drum and bass is obviously a lot faster at 160-180 BPM.
Named after The Warehouse club in Chicago where it originated in the early 80s, house takes disco’s use of prominent bass drums on every beat, and developed a new style by mixing in heavy synth basslines, electronic drums and funk and pop samples.
Most electronic dance music (EDM) has a BPM of 120-140 and includes everything from trance to techno, breakbeat, gabber and hardcore (which hits 200 BPM).
As the name suggests, EDM’s main aim is to get you on the dancefloor, so rhythm is paramount.
- Don’t Wanna Hide – try some trance
- Savage Beast gives you big beats and thumping bass
- Get Twisted with funky glitch pop
By nature, techno tends to be highly repetitive, following a regular four-to-the-floor beat, and is heavily beat-based. It clocks in at anything from 100-170 BPM.
UK Garage originated in South London clubs around 1994-6, and it’s original sound had a four-to-the-floor beat.
However, from 1997 onwards, the breakbeat-influenced 2-Step sound took off. Heavy sub-bass was joined by singers and then prominent MCs, and most UK Garage tracks feature a BPM between 125 and 140.
How Do You Use BPM in a Creative Project?
Action films will need a track that’s got plenty of pace – a high bpm can really get that adrenaline rushing for an edge-of-the-seat feel.
Tracks with a lower BPM are slower, which can be great if you’re looking to create romance, or sadness – some of the classical greats are often used for romantic or sad films.
That Was Our BPM Guide
If you’ve got a general idea of what genre of music you’re looking for – even if you don’t know the exact BPM – then you can use Audio Network’s expert search options to find tracks by production genre, instrumentation, musical style or mood and emotion.
Need music for your project? We have a range of great subscriptions – why not try out the Essential Edit? You can trial it free for 14 days – it’s a way to access music to license simply, fast and at an affordable monthly price. We’re constantly adding new music to our catalogue, with tons of hand-picked playlists, so you’ll never run out of choice!
So, now you know the answer to the question, ‘what is BPM?’, if you’re after more expert guides to all aspects of video and content production, then we’ve got you covered! With everything from the best cameras to how to get started on YouTube, and improving your video content by nailing those camera shots – and not forgetting our ultimate guide to intro music (no matter what BPM you’re using!)
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