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Background Bop: Do Different Businesses Play Different Tempos in Background Music? *

Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
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.


Walk into a fitness club and what kind of music do you hear? Slow, sparkling, relaxing music? Or driving, "up-tempo" songs that are designed to encourage you to move? Fitness clubs and other businesses, like restaurants and grocery stores, use background music to set the mood and to determine how fast they want their customers to move. The tempo of the background music is a key component to the environment that businesses want to create. Tempo is an important number or word inscribed by a composer at the start of a piece of music to tell the players how fast the piece is to be played. Direction for the tempo in modern music is typically given in beats per minute, or bpm, while classical music 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). In this music science fair project, you'll investigate the tempo of music at different types of businesses.

You'll first need to practice taking the beat of different songs. Start by playing a song and tapping or clapping out the 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, below. Once you feel comfortable measuring the tempo of a piece of music, then you'll need to go to many different types of businesses to collect your data. You can measure and record the beat while you're in the business, or record the music in the businesses, and evaluate them at home later.

You can look at and compare the average beats per minute for stores like: general grocery stores, specialty high-end food stores, men's department stores, women's department stores, toy stores, fast-food restaurants, fine dining restaurants, gyms, shoe stores, sporting goods stores, car showrooms, and malls. You can compare the range (maximums and minimums) in beats per minutes for each of these types of stores, too. Rank the store types from lowest average beats per minutes to highest. Are there any surprises?

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Background Bop: Do Different Businesses Play Different Tempos in Background Music?" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 Nov. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p033.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 23). Background Bop: Do Different Businesses Play Different Tempos in Background Music?. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p033.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-23


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

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