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How to Choose Your Music

Choosing Your Music

The speed of the music is given in bpm - beats per minute. This is calculated by counting up the number of beats that occur in one minute of the track you are assessing. This is a tiresome and error prone process, and I would strongly recommend downloading a piece of software that will do this for you. I have used the Mixmeister BPM analyser on many occasions and have found it to be generally very accurate. This software is free and I highly recommend it. There are other online alternative ways of calculating the bpm of a piece of music - this usually involves clicking your computer mouse in time to the music and the bpm is calculated interactively by the web page - an example can be found here.

The Ideal BPM

There is no such thing as an ideal bpm. The important thing is for the music to sound right and be appropriate to the activity. The following table lists generally suitable bpm's for the activities indicated.

Suggested BPM
Warm Up
Music phrased into 8's is beneficial
Pulse raiser
Music phrased into 8's is essential
Music should be slower and quieter
Aerobic Curve
Build Up
Music phrased into 8's is essential
Music phrased into 8's is essential
Cool Down
Music phrased into 8's is essential

The bpm is less important than the beat, which must be strong.
Music phrased into 8's is beneficial.

Cool down & Stretch
Less than 100
Classical music can be a good choice, or anything soothing.

Pure Energy Digital Download 32 Count musicOnce you are qualified you will be able to use the purpose recorded cd's by firms such as Jumpy Bumpy, Fitpro, Solid Sound, Pure Energy and Multitrax, and alter the bpm (within limits) via the pitch control on your sound system. However, for the purpose of the course you need to be able to select your own suitable music.

You now only need one PPL licence to play music from any supplier. Some suppliers, such as Pure Energy Digital, allow you to download tracks online (without ever purchasing a physical CD), so you can write them to a CD or use them on your mp3 player / Ipod.


Understanding the phrasing in music is similar to being able to do maths, or being good at art, or being musical. It is a talent that you are born with. For some people, it is obvious where the phrasing occurs - for others, a lot of work and counting is required. To be a natural exercise to music teacher, you should be able to pick up the phrasing easily. However, if you work at anything it can be improved, so there follows an explanation of phrasing and what it means.

Each movement takes a number of beats; eg a grapevine takes 4 beats. A grapevine there and back takes 8 beats. Similarly, other aerobic move pairs take 8 beats, eg mambo cha cha cha x 2, vstep x 2 etc. It can therefore be seen that selecting music that is also phrased into 8's will be beneficial to the flow of the exercise - if a piece of music has a 6 beat phrase instead of an 8 beat phrase, the aerobic dancing will feel wrong.

The best way to explain this is with Abba - my favourite group. Virtually none of their music is consistently in 8's throughout the duration of the track, with the exception of "The Winner Takes It All", which is detailed below - the numbers are the beat number within the phrase.

I don't wanna

talk           About things we've
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
gone through           though it's hurting
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
me           now it's histor-
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
y           i've played all my
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
cards           and that's what you've

the rest of the song continues in a similar manner, with every phrase being 8 beats long.

However, look what happens with "Does Your Mother Know"

You're so hot   teas- ing me
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
So your blue but I can't take a chance on a
1 2  
chick like
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
you..                    It's something I couldn't
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

You can see there are an extra two beats on "chick like" which don't fit into an 8 count phrase - this will mess up the flow of your aerobic curve and make it feel wrong.

The only way to check that your music is indeed in 8's is to sit down and count through the phrases all the way through the track. Dance music is most often phrased in 8's, although beware of phrases of length 4 that can sometimes be thrown in - you really need to go all the way through the track, counting the 8's as you go.