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Cha-cha-cha by Latitude *

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites You must have Internet access with a personal computer.
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


You probably know that where you live on Earth affects your weather. If you live in a far northern or far southern latitude, you experience colder temperatures than people who live near the equator at latitudes close to zero. Your latitude on Earth affects many aspects of your culture, like how you dress, what kind of house you live in, what foods you eat, and even how your day is structured: what time you go to school, to dinner, and to sleep. Some cities at latitudes closer to the equator, for example, shut down in the afternoon, because it is too warm to move around. People sleep instead, and then have a very late (by western standards) evening meal. Does latitude affect other aspects of a culture though, like art and music? In this music science fair project, you'll investigate the tempo or beat of music at different latitudes on Earth.

The tempo is an important number or word assigned by the composer at the start of a piece of music to tell the players how fast they should play the piece. More modern pieces are typically given in beats per minute, or bpm. Pieces from centuries ago typically have their tempos written in Italian words, like adagio (66-76 bpm), allegro (120-168 bpm), or the very fast presto (168-200 bpm). Tempo is important because it can affect how the piece sounds, its mood, and its playing difficulty.

You'll first need to practice figuring out the beat of different songs. Start by tapping or clapping out a beat for 10 seconds, and then multiplying by 6 to get the beats per minute for the song. You can tap or clap out the beat yourself, or use a free software tool like the one listed in the Bibliography. Once you feel comfortable measuring the tempo of a piece of music, then you'll need to find a database of music with the same musical intent; for example, national anthems or wedding songs. A database of national anthems is provided in the Bibliography. Listen to national anthems of several dozen countries and obtain the tempo for each by taking three bpm measurements for each anthem and calculating the average for each song. Next, do research to obtain the latitudes for all the countries that you evaluated. Make a scatter plot that shows how the beats per minute of national anthems changes with latitude, and then evaluate the linear correlation coefficient for your plot. Is there a weak correlation? A strong one? Are there any outliers? Can you explain outliers by looking at the history of the country?

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Science Buddies Staff. "Cha-cha-cha by Latitude" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p020.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 10). Cha-cha-cha by Latitude. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p020.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-10


This source provides a database of national anthems:

This source provides a tool for measuring tempo in a song:

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