Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 3, Tempo – by Chris Bruce

Chris and his wife Monika at a Dancesport competition.

Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 3, Tempo

 

DK Ballroom Instructor Chris Bruce

 

Tempo defines the speed at which the music is played.

In Ballroom Dancing Tempo is typically measured in bars (or measures) per minute. Musicians, on the other hand, will often refer to Tempo in beats per minute. Both are commonly abbreviated to bpm (though bars per minute may also be abbreviated to mpm for measures per minute). For Standard Ballroom music a good rule of thumb is to assume bars per minute unless it’s way above 60bpm, then assume beats per minute.

Even though it’s not the option most used by dancers, let’s first examine the simpler of these – beats per minute. Why do I say it’s simpler? Because we’re comparing apples with apples, so the higher the number, the faster the music. 100 beats per minute is faster than 90 beats per minute, 130 beats per minute is faster than 110 beats per minute.

Listen to the ‘soundbite’ below. This is a recording of a drumbeat at 90 beats per minute (a suitable speed for a Modern Waltz).

Now listen to the next ‘soundbite’. This is the same drumbeat at 200 beats per minute (a suitable speed for a Quickstep).

The Tempos demonstrated here are near the two extremes of the range used by our Standard Ballroom Dances. A Modern Waltz may be a little slower than 90 bpm, and a Quickstep may be a little faster than 200 bpm.

Chris