Have you ever wondered how DJs manage to calculate the tempo of the tracks in their mix to line up the perfect mix? It’s all about finding the BPM, the number of beats per minute in each tune.
If we can line up tunes with a similar BPM next to each other in our playlist, it becomes much easier to create smooth transitions that sound silky smooth.
Finding out the song tempo of every track used to take a lot of time and could be a daunting task for beginner DJs. Thankfully, new innovations in DJing technology are changing all that. Want to be among the first to learn about it? You’re in the right place...
BPM stands for beats per minute, it's how we measure the tempo of a song.
You need to understand BPM for DJing because the tempo determines which songs and genres can be mixed together seamlessly.
Many years ago, DJs would count BPM by ear with a stopwatch.
Online BPM calculator tools allow you to find the bpm of any song with a solid beat.
Innovative DJ software like DJ.Studio uses algorithms to measure bpm and line up your DJ sets in the perfect order for fun and easy mixing.
What is BPM? A Quick Overview#
BPM stands for beats per minute. It’s the unit with which the tempo of a song is measured, so the higher the number, the faster the track.
Since the tempo of each style of music will be similar, the beats per minute of a song is a good way to identify musical genres.
Most commercial pop music has a tempo of around 110-130 BPM.
Trance and techno typically have a BPM of between 120-140 BPM, and drum and bass is generally between 165-180 BPM.
Why do You Need to Know the BPM of a Song for DJing?#
When you’re DJing, you need to be able to synchronize the beats of two tracks to make a smooth transition from one track to another. This is known as ‘beat matching’ and used to be one of the most difficult skills to learn in DJing. When I began learning to DJ on vinyl many years ago, we had to beat match entirely by ear. Not an easy skill to learn!
These days, beat matching is made much easier by modern DJ software like DJ.Studio which automatically matches beats so that even beginners can make seamless mixes.
But to match the beat on two tracks with different tempos, the incoming track needs to be sped up or slowed down to play at the same speed as the current song played. Traditionally, this was done with a slider on the turntable called a 'pitch fader'.
Since speeding up or slowing down your tracks too much will change their sound, it’s standard practice to only mix tracks with a maximum tempo difference of around 3-5 beats per minute.
This is why DJs should know the BPM of each of the tracks they want to include in their set. You should line up a playlist where songs with a similar tempo can be played one after the other.
How to Count BPM by Ear#
In the days of vinyl, the BPM would sometimes be printed on the sleeve, or DJs would have to count how many beats per minute were in each of their records by ear.
We’d sit there with a stopwatch, count the beats, and write the BPM on the record sleeve ourselves. Sometimes we’d even arrange our record boxes in order of the BPM to make our playlists easier to sequence!
Some people still enjoy this old tradition of counting the beats per minute manually. Want to know how?
Get a stopwatch and set up your tune ready to play at its original tempo (make sure your pitch fader is locked at 0 if you have one!)
Play your track and start your stopwatch at the same time. Starting from the first beat, count the number of beats for 30 seconds. Write down the number.
Multiply the number x2 to get the BPM of the song. If it’s on vinyl, write it down on a sticky note and stick it on the record sleeve.
This method gives you a taste of how time-consuming DJing was back in the day! Let’s look at some more modern methods.
How to Find BPM for Songs Using a BPM Finder Tool#
To save DJs the trouble of counting the beats themselves, companies like Numark and Pioneer began to feature bpm calculators on their DJ mixers. In our modern digital era, you can use online tools to find a song's BPM for you. Here's how:
Upload your audio file, or use the beat-tapping tool to tap out the beat of your tune in the background. The apps will calculate the BPM for you.
Write down and keep a record of the BPM of each track so you can line up tracks with a similar BPM next to each other in your playlist.
Are Online BPM Finders Useful For DJs?#
Online BPM finders save you a lot of time compared to counting the beats yourself with a stopwatch.
Sometimes you need to pay for these services, however, and some users have reported that the BPM readings are not always accurate - especially for music with more subtle beats. Tapping out a beat is also subject to human error.
Although faster than counting beats by ear, using an online BPM calculator still requires quite a lot of manual work. Once you have discovered the BPM of your tunes, you need to keep a note of them and create a real bpm database so you use that to line up playlists in the right order.
The latest innovations in DJing technology have gone to the next level to do all this for you…
How To Use DJ.Studio to Calculate BPM for You#
Thankfully, advances in algorithm technology make things a lot easier. Digital audio workstation software like rekordbox, Logic or DJ.Studio will calculate and label each track’s BPM for you in just a few seconds. This save you a lof of time!
You can then use it to line up your mixes automatically so that tracks with a similar tempo sit side by side with each other in the playlist. Here's how:
Upload your mp3 files, or import tunes from Youtube, SoundCloud, and other streaming platforms.
Arrange your tracks in a playlist, sequenced in your preferred order. You can lock certain tracks in place (if you want to start or finish with a specific song, for example).
Use the AUTOMIX function to adjust the playlist order for optimum BPM matching.
Review the playlist sequence and make manual refinements if you wish.
These automatic functions can save massive amounts of time when lining up a mix compared to writing down the BPM of each tune and arranging your own playlist manually.
Finding the BPM of the tunes you want to use in your DJ set is an essential part of lining up a smooth and seamless mix. But calculating and recording the BPM of each audio file is a time-consuming process that can take away from the pleasure of mixing.
With the latest developments in algorithm technology, programs like DJ.Studio measure BPM for you and line up your playlists so that you can spend more time getting creative with your mix.
Finding the BPM of a Song FAQs
- What is a time signature?
- What's the fastest BPM of any electronic dance music?
- Can I mix tracks with totally different tempos together?