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A Guide to Beats Per Minute (BPM) in iTunes

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 5/23/2011

The iTunes software by Apple is both loved and hated but its undeniable that it can be very useful. A much underestimated feature is the possibility to set the BPM value. Find out what BPM is, how to find it, set it and use it for your benefit!

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    ITunes and the BPM Value

    Apples’ iTunes is both loved and hated and this discrepancy is especially seen between Windows and Mac users. However, there is no denying the large variety of options in iTunes itself, apart from having to use it for synchronization with an iPod or iPhone. One of the options of iTunes worth mentioning is ‘Beats Per Minute’ or ‘BPM’. Each song in the iTunes playlist can be assigned a BPM number and here is how.

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    Finding and Setting the BPM Value in iTunes

    The BPM section is easy to find in iTunes. The beats per minute on iTunes value can be set for both an individual song and a selection of songs. To find out the BPM of a song or insert it manually the following steps are needed:

    1. Highlight the individual song or selection of songs.
    2. Right-click on the Selection and select ‘Get Info’. Alternatively select CMD+I (mac) or CTRL+I (Windows)
    3. You will find the BPM section on the right side of the window under the ‘Info’ tab.

    Once found, read or insert the value for BPM of the song or song selection. More often than not the value has to be manually inserted afterwards. You can insert any value you want here, as iTunes will not check if the value is correct or not. The software does not have a built-in BPM setting feature and therefore any value is tolerated.

    BPM in iTunes: Right Click and Select 'Get Info' BPM in iTunes: Select the BPM Section and Insert the Value 

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    Software to Automatically Set the Beats Per Minutes on iTunes

    To get the most out of it is important to assign as many songs as possible with the value. This can be quite a tedious process, especially as you don’t know how to determine the BPM for a song or song selection. Luckily there are third party applications available that are capable of analyzing the BPM for a certain song or songs. As there are many apps available for this purpose it is best to focus on those that automatically insert the value in iTunes once determined. These applications are:

    • beaTunes – For Mac and Windows, analyzes the BPM value of a song and adds it to iTunes.
    • Tangerine - Mac Only, also analyzes the BPM value of songs and lets you insert the results into your iTunes library.
    • BPMer – Mac Only. BPMer is an iTunes plugin that analyzes the BPM and adds it automatically.

    The above three are emphatically associated with iTunes and therefore the best option if you use Apples’ music player. However, there are many applications available that do the same but don’t necessarily plug into iTunes. A quick google search will pick up a lot of good results and as some are quite pricey (but powerful) it is worth doing a bit of research.

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    What to Do With the BPM Feature in iTunes?

    There are several things you can do with the beats per minute on iTunes. As mentioned earlier, to get the most out of these features it is of importance to assign a BPM value to as much media as you can. Once this is done the BPM values can be utilized in a few ways.

    BPM in iTunes: Creating a Smart Playlist First of all there is the creation of Smart Playlists. Smart Playlists are an aspect of iTunes that is often praised by many. These playlists can also be synchronized with your iPod or iPhone device to extend their functionality. Creating a Smart Playlist based on BPM is especially useful for sorting out the fast from the slow songs and creating a playlist accordingly. The steps are easy. In iTunes go the file and then ‘new smart playlist’. Select the values here as you wish but make sure to select BPM in the first dropdown menu under ‘Match the following rule:’. The BPM criteria can then be narrowed down to ‘is’, ‘is not’, ‘greater than’, ‘is less than’ or ‘is in the range’. The third bar is where you will set the actual BPM value. If all your music is ‘tagged’ correctly the playlist should contain any songs that match the predetermined parameters and a very useful smart playlist is born.

    BPM in iTunes: Right Click on Category Bar to Add BPM Secondly, your entire library or playlist can be sorted by BPM value. Once all your values are set it is not even necessary to create a smart playlist to sort out to slow from the fast tracks. Going to your music library you will find that all your music is sorted by a certain category in the top. By default this is probably ‘Artist’. Right clicking with your cursor on this category bar will bring up a number of additional options to choose from. Choose BPM as a new category, which will now appear in the bar. Clicking on the BPM category will sort out the list of music either descending or ascending. Please note that this will work in any playlist as well as the category bar is present everywhere. It is possible, however, that the BPM category has to be added manually for each new playlist.

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    The BPM Value in iTunes; A Largely Underestimated Feature

    The BPM value in iTunes can be of good use for both professionals and casual users alike. As it is probably the best method for sifting out music by pace it is an excellent tool for creating smart playlists for certain occasions. Although iTunes’s built-in ‘Genius’ feature does match music pretty well by its genre, you essentially have no control over it. With the BPM feature you do have control, which you can use for many different situations. The BPM feature is highly underestimated by many but can definitely be a powerful tool!