Poll: How to display BPMs for waltzes?

I’m in the process of fixing the BPM display for waltzes and jigs in Strum Machine, and I’m curious what y’all think about waltz BPMs (if you think about them at all).

Take this performance of a waltz (Josefin’s Waltz, one of my favorites), which I would call “moderate tempo”. Would you call this 45 BPM, or 135 BPM?

  • 45 BPM would be “downbeats per minute” (like Strum Machine does in standard time), which in 3/4 time also means measures per minute.

  • 135 BPM would be “quarter notes per minute”, which is probably the standard in classical music… but we’re not playing classical music here, so we don’t need to follow those rules. :wink:

I plan to have it configurable, but I want to know what the default should be. Opinions welcome!

Background: in case you weren’t aware, the BPM values for jigs and waltzes in Strum Machine are currently off by a factor of 1.333 and 1.5, respectively. This is an old bug that I’m pretty darn embarrassed about, but I plan to finally fix it in the next week or so! Just need to answer this question about the defaults and tie up a few loose ends in the code.

The default for 4/4 will remain “downbeats per minute” (which makes me lean toward that interpretation for waltzes too) although there will be an option to change that as well.

I would vote for 45 BPM. You could tap your foot on every beat in between if you wanted to, but that makes it quite mechanical. 45 BPM on the downbeat gives the right amount of space to vary the “pull” in a waltz. If you watch the nickelharpa player in this clip, he is tapping on beats three and one, which is very common in Swedish music.

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My understanding is the question is about how to display the tempo of a waltz. I asked Bryan Sutton as he knows a thing or two about playing waltzes and as a Nashville session player sees a wide variety of charts. He says they use quarter note beats as the counting method.

Bryan went on to say ‘as an added thought, it’s interesting to notice how the feel or groove characteristic of the waltz can change as we emphasize 1, 2, or 3.’


For me 135.
When the count get very slow I always double it.
Musically incorrect I suppose, but it feels better.

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  1. not everything in 3 is a waltz. sm bass and guitar give 3/4 the waltz feel by default. it is possible to set a metronome at 145 and tap your toe as you feel it, only 1, all 3 beats, 1 and 3.
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135 beats per minute. my bad.

Thanks so much everyone. Between these votes and what I’ve heard privately, it seems like it’s pretty evenly split. I’ve decided to go with “downbeats per measure” (i.e., 40-80 BPM for most waltzes) as the default, as it matches the “downbeats per measure” default used in standard time.

Fortunately you won’t have to settle for the default definition in the new version, which will be released to the beta site later today if all goes well!

Here are the new options I’m adding to Advanced Settings. These captions were very difficult to write without being confusing, and I’m not at all sure I succeeded, so do let me know if you have ideas for better ways to talk about this. :slightly_smiling_face:

BPMs are fixed in the beta version! :tada:

OK, I am second-guessing my decision about waltz BPMs. Quarter note BPM is definitely the “standard” for 3/4 time in written music, so I think I should go with that.

Hi Luke,
I find the the BPM for Josefin’s Waltz is actually 120 bpm counting out the bpm for 15 seconds x 4.
120 bpm is what would be entered in Strum Machine as a tempo. The way SM is now I have to enter
60 bpm to get 120 actual BPM.
As far as reels are concerned, they are played in cut time (like 2 beats per measure) and therefor the BPM entered in SM would 1/2 of the real speed.
Summary… Waltzes should use the real BPM as you would count it out. Reels should also be the real BPM but entered as cut time in SM to allow toe tapping if desired. It’s not easy to tap at 200 bpm.
Jigs are considered as 2 bpm
I hope this helps
Len Dessormeau