What Are Beats Per Minute and What Can BPM Tell You?

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December 19, 2017

What Are Beats Per Minute and What Can BPM Tell You?

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You might hear the term “BPM” a lot from doctors or fitness enthusiasts, but what is BPM? It stands for “Beats Per Minute”—but it isn’t just useful for determining your heart rate! Knowing the BPM for a song is useful in the world of A/V content creation as well. Here’s our quick guide to understand BPM and how it can be useful in your creative process.

How to Count the BPM in Music

Determining the BPM of a song is fairly simple, but a little musical background may be helpful. On sheet music, instrumentation is written out using musical notation, which is divided into small sections called measures. Each measure is then comprised of a series of music notes, which are the melody and/or harmony of a song.

From there, a time signature is used to determine how many beats are in a measure, which is then how the composer determines how many notes are allowed in each measure. Thus, the tempo determines the performance speed of the music. 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 beats in 15 seconds of music, and then multiply that number by 4. Voila!

How to Use BPM and Tempo in Your Creative Projects

Why is this useful? The tempo of a song generally correlates with the kind of mood a song will set in a video or any project that utilizes music to invoke a specific feeling in the audience. The higher the BPM, the faster the song, which is great for scenes that are joyful, exciting, or need to move quickly or intensely. Meanwhile, a lower BPM means the song is slower, which is fitting scenes that are sad, dramatic or romantic.

Different tempos fall into specific ranges, which are helpful when determining the BPM as well as what music works best for your project:

Largo (very slow) is 40–60 BPM.
Larghetto (less slow) is 60–66 BPM.
Adagio (moderately slow) is 66–76 BPM.
Andante (walking speed) is 76–108 BPM.
Moderato (moderate) is 108–120 BPM.
Allegro (fast) is 120–168 BPM.
Presto (faster) is 168–200 BPM.
Prestissimo (even faster) is 200+ BPM.

Searching by BPM to Find the Perfect Song

Did you know that you can search for music by BPM right on Storyblocks? There’s a slider on the left side of the search results page that runs from 0–250 BPM. Every track also includes its BPM on the preview page for reference. So, the next time you’re looking for music to use in your next project, try searching by BPM and see what turns up—it may just be the perfect track to amp up your project to the next level!

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Amanda Storey

Staff Writer

Amanda hails from Maryland and is a writer and Customer Experience Expert at Storyblocks. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Film and her writing focuses include cinema history, beginner tutorials for Adobe programs, and stock collections.