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There is one overlooked element of music, however, and that is how it affects your productivity. I’m not talking about how head banging and constantly getting out of your seat to do the twist can end up wasting your time so you should listen to incredibly shitty music. I’m not talking about listening to ambient music because it’s the “way to go” and there aren’t any words to keep you distracted (although that’s a reason enough to listen to it). Instead, I want to talk a little bit today about BPMs, and why you should be paying attention to them.

Count Your BPMs

Woah, holy crap. BPMs. Another acronym. What are you trying to do to us, James? Well, BPMs are short for Beats Per Minute. If you haven’t noticed in iTunes (and most music players, nowadays), there is an invisible column you can enable called BPM. BPMs usually range anywhere from the 60s to the 130s. Do me a favour and listen to a song in the 60s. Now listen to a song in the 120s. Both have different feels. Both have completely different speeds. You’ll notice some genres stick within certain BPM ranges, like dance/pop music is usually above the 120 mark while reggae music is around that 100 mark.

BPMs: A DJ’s Perspective

Let me get one thing straight, first. A DJ is someone who plays music. A producer is someone who creates music. If you do both, you can call yourself a producer/DJ, but if you make gino beats in your basements while tripping on cocaine, you’re not a DJ. Just saying.

One of my dirty little habits is DJing. When I first got into it, I had been watching others do it and thought it looked pretty straightforward. Y’know, you have two sides and just bring the fader over. This “mixing” (or, the transition between two songs) was the easy part. The hardest part was getting the good music. Well, let me tell you – I was completely wrong.

While there are a hundred different factors of DJing that make it an artform in itself, the art of mixing is something a lot of people have trouble with, and DJs depend on BPMs (whether or not they look at the numbers) to mix properly. They speed things up and slow things down, but it’s very rare a DJ will abruptly switch from a heavy-hitting 130 BPM song to a more laid-back 80 BPM song. Reason being? You’re building moods with music, and when you abruptly switch it, you’re wrecking the flow people had with the music, the way they were dancing, et cetera.

So then, why the hell are we doing this with our music in our day-to-day?

BPMs: A Hard Worker’s Perspective

Let’s first analyze the problem so we can figure out a solution. We have a lot of music in our libraries. We have anything from slow melancholy songs to fist-pumping anthems, and all that weird stuff in between. We depend on the shuffle function to take us through the day, and we figure that we’ll switch songs when we hit something we don’t like. Either that, or we’re working and listening to music on the radio, and the same things happen. It hits a terrible song, and we either switch it off or laboriously try and find a new station to listen to. This, in itself, is a waste of time. And here, lies in the problem.

We listen to this music that jumps from fast stuff to slow stuff, and subconsciously our work goes from productive to [not as] productive. When we’re head-banging, singing the lyrics to that Jay-Z song feeling like a total badass, the tempo is keeping the tempo for our music. We type to the beat. We think to the beat. We let the mood of the song affect us. The song switches, it slows down, and our body takes time to react to this new speed. And it all has to do with those damn numbers that are BPMs.

The Solution

We’ve just analyzed the problem. Now let’s get a solution to fix things.

While it can be a huge pain in the ass to organize your music library (mine has almost 25,000 songs) by genre, feel, etc, there is one small thing you can do that will help. All of your songs should be automagically tagged with BPMs. If they aren’t, and your preferred application is showing a way to organize by BPM, find out how to get the application to analyze tracks to find their BPM. Then, sort your music from slow to fast music.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re going to hit a song you’re not going to look, still, but through your day your productivity will slowly rise as each song ends and the next one starts at a gradual pace.

And That’s It!

It’s as easy as that. But what do you think? Does music affect your work? In what ways, and how do you stay productive while listening to music?

8 Comments

  1. Preston D Lee on | Reply

    This may sound lame, but it has definitely worked for me to listen to classical music while I work. There usually aren’t any words to distract me and I feel energized when I listen. I’m usually more productive as a result.

  2. Igor Klajo on | Reply

    Sometimes I listen to house music, with little or no vocals/lyrics in the music since they can be distracting. BPM for such tracks is between 125 – 130 ( in my case ) so it gives a power and energy boost to work fast.

    From time to time I listen to my Putumayo collection, mostly songs from Latin America or Africa. The beat and tempo is here very easy, lightweight, chill out like. The vocals/lyrics are not distracting at all since I don’t understand the foreign language, so it’s perfect.

  3. Alex on | Reply

    I always found that listening to anything you know well works the best for productivity- music should be beneficial to it, keeping your mind concentrating on one task, but having other things for it to work with in your subconscious.
    If you’re able to listen to music that doesn’t distract you, that doesn’t make you go “Oh, what’s the song again?” every 5 minutes then it keeps you on task.

    (Or I guess, listen to the radio instead?)

    Oh, and if you’re on a multiple-monitor setup, don’t keep iTunes always visible on another screen! I’ve found that you’re always wanting to either rate the song, or wanting to know what album it’s from etc. Not to mention that it’s a big block of white light in the corner of your eye!

  4. rezyde on | Reply

    I found myself listening to podcasts more than music.

  5. Michelle on | Reply

    Great article. I definitely have a playlist for everything. When it comes to designing/coding I always have music on in the background and it definitely affects the designs that come out and how productive I am that day.

    Though probably not always considered, another good piece of advice to keep in mind.

    I do agree on listening to stuff you know well already – I find something new will distract me because I want to know more about the song/artist.

  6. hermes kelly bag on | Reply

    Great article. I definitely have a playlist for everything. When it comes to designing/coding I always have music on in the background and it definitely affects the designs that come out and how productive I am that day.

    Though probably not always considered, another good piece of advice to keep in mind.

    I do agree on listening to stuff you know well already – I find something new will distract me because I want to know more about the song/artist.

    Reply

  7. Anna on | Reply

    I found this website researching for my sose ip which is about this type of thing and I got the inspiration for it frim listening to music, which deff. helps me work :PP

  8. Jules on | Reply

    Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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