What Is The BPM?

"What is the bpm?" is a common question asked by beginning musicians, not just guitarists, when a seasoned musician, recording engineer, music instructor, or anybody of a similar career choice starts mentioning a tune's tempo. With so many things going on in a tune, there's plenty to worry about, but being concerned with the tempo is high-up on the list.

So anyway... what is the bmp?

Bpm is an acronym that stands for "beats per minute" and is a unit of measurement for most musical tempos.

I was in high school band (nerd alert...you don't know the have of it) and at the top of our sheet music we received you could view a general tempo marking which is a semi-broad term to describe a piece's tempo.

For instance, the word allegro means somewhat fast and andante means at a walking pace.

Now, occasionally, composers would mark what the desired bpm (beats per minute) of the tune was intended to be played in as well.

In that case, our director would pull out her giant ancient metronome that could beep out the tempo indicated at the top of the page. We would hear the beat, she would count us off, and then boom...we began.

So any common metronome that you purchase for your guitar will most likely keep track of the tempo using bpms.

A nifty trick for making a close estimate of a tempo without a metronome would be to really consider the term's meaning. BPM actually counts the number of beats per minute right?

That means if you hear a song where the beat appears to hit with nearly a second between the next, then that tempo is closer to 60 bpms. And so if something sounds twice as fast (like you can fit 2 beats into a single second) then it's closer to 120 bpms.

So now you should have a common understanding of this musical acronym and you can give a brief explanation the next time someone asks YOU "What is the bpm?"

I'm in a bit of disbelief that someone actually wrote a song about beats per minute, but leave it to Kylie Minogue.

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