How To Find Your Music’s BPM To Build A Great Exercise Playlist

How To Find Your Music’s BPM To Build A Great Exercise Playlist

Matching your song playlist to your running distance and style is a task you don’t want to botch up. Lifehacker reader samc352 shares some great tips on automatically and manually generating Beats Per Minute (BPM) playlists.

Photo by Raquel Baranow.

First, you need to decide what BPM you are looking for and what kind of run this is. For example:

  • 5k – very fast run, need high BPM songs for the whole time and a short playlist (since it usually doesn’t take more than 40 minutes to finish).
  • Marathon – very slow run, you need mostly low BPM songs, but not too low (in the 120-130 range, and maybe a few higher ones to boost morale), and a very long list.

Once you know your target BPM, you need to find songs with that BPM. There are several ways to do this:

Automate it. You can use BPM-analysing software like Mixmeister (free) or Cadence (iPhone $5.99, desktop for Mac OS X/Windows is Donationware) to analyse your entire library. The problem with this is that they usually get around 20-30 per cent of the songs wrong.

80 per cent success rate isn’t bad, you say? Consider this: If you have a music library of 5000 songs, 20 per cent wrong means you’ll have 1000 songs with the wrong BPM. Try running up a hill when a slow jazz song comes up just because the app decided it has a BPM of 170 when it’s really 60.

Do it manually. It takes more time, but once you’ve done 100 songs or so, you get really fast at it. This is the most accurate way I know to get the right BPM. I use the manual BPM tapper at All8.

Get list from a specialised website. Sites like Running Playlist have already done the work for you and include hundreds of songs and playlists designed for specific events (5k, 10k, etc). There are also many other sites that do the same thing, of course, but I prefer Running Playlist.

Have a tip, website or application that helps you create accurate BPM-oriented playlists? Let’s hear about it in the comments. For further BPM tricks from the Lifehacker archive, check out BeatScanner for Windows, Tangerine for Mac OS X and our guide to creating the ultimate exercise playlist.


Log in to comment on this story!