Tag Archives: Tempo Range

Book Review: How to Read Music in 30 Days

While dancers definitely don’t need to be able to read music, it is helpful to be able to dig up sheet music for a song and understand the meter and tempo markings. This can act as a sanity check against what you hear, tap out in a tempo counter, or find by just stepping out the dance.

The catch is that the simple idea that 3/4 meter is a waltz and 4/4 is everything else only gets you so far. What is 12/8 or 2/2? Can you even dance to music that is marked in those ways and others? How to Read Music in 30 Days describes simple and compound meters and tempo markings in enough detail to get your head wrapped around these markings and translate them back to something meaningful to a dancer.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about how musicians and dancers might think of tempo differently. In that case, it was a simple matter of the written music and the musician thinking about the pulse or underlying beat as being twice the tempo as the dancer does.

In the case that prompted this post, I was asked about “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” by Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend which is marked as 12/8 with a dotted quarter note = 72 beats per minute.

12/8 meter

This could be translated to a 3/4 meter at 72 measures per minute or 216 beats per minute. That would be a very fast Viennese Waltz, which is what 6 people have voted for. Alternatively, one could translate this to 4/4 time 72 beats per minute or 18 measures per minute, which would make a good Slow Dance, Blues Dance, or a very slow West Coast Swing, all of which have votes. See the book for how to do these translations; it’s explained better there than I can manage.

Since I can only have one tempo listed per song, I’m a little stuck on being able to get the “dancer’s tempo” correct for songs that can be danced to different interpretations of the beat. I’m starting to think about reworking music4dance so we can override the tempo on a per-dance style basis. That’s a pretty significant lift for a small number of songs. But this keeps coming up, so let me know what you think. If I get enough people asking for this, I’ll figure out how to make it work.

This is a topic that I’ve touched on quite a bit, so here are some other posts and resources that might be of interest:

As always, I’m very interested in your feedback, so please share any thoughts and ideas about this post or the site by commenting below or using other feedback mechanisms listed here. In addition, if you enjoy the site or the blog (or both), please consider contributing in whatever way that makes sense for you.

How to Read Music in 30 Days: Paperback

How to Read Music in 30 Days: Hardcover

How to Read Music in 30 Days: Spiral Bound

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I’m a competition ballroom dancer, can I find practice songs that are a specific tempo?

The quick answer to this question is yes, definitely!

First, many of the songs in our catalog have been tagged with a tempo, so it is easy to get a list of suggestions.  However, these are tempi that have been sourced from all over the web, so please use this as a first approximation rather than some kind of official source.

That said, it’s very easy to get  a list of songs of a particular tempo.  Just go to the song list page (the “Songs” item in the “Music” menu), choose the style of dance you’re interested in practicing [A] and click on the “More” button [B].


Then you can fill the minimum tempo (C) an the maximum temp (D), and click the search button (E) to get a list of songs.


If the list is empty we haven’t tagged any songs in that tempo range for that dance style.  Which is the perfect segue into the another way to do this kind of search.

If you are competing in a particular category (International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth and American Rhythm), you can go to the info page for that category by  clicking on the name of the category on the  Ballroom Dancer section of the home page or at the bottom of the dance style page.  The core of each of these pages is a table with the dances styles for that competition category and the competition tempo ranges.  The tempo ranges are active links to just the kind of song search that I described in the last paragraph.  Starting here will assure that you’ve started with the approved competition tempo range. Full documentation for the dance category pages can be found here.

Finally, if you are practicing a particular dance you can start from the dance style page (from the “Dances” item in the “Music” menu) and click on the dance style that you’re practicing.  The tempo info link on that page will take you to the same table as the category page but with just the single dance style specified.  Full documentation for the dance style pages can be found here.

Hope that helps.  If you are interested in helping refine our catalog (by, for instance, adding ‘strict’ tags) please sign up for our upcoming beta via this feedback form, or use the same form to report incorrect tempi or other information in our database.