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the sheet music I have says the BPM = 172 with a 4/4 time (which seems very fast for this song) but when i pull up sheet music online you see 94 bpm in one but 172 bpm in another...I have seen this in other pieces of music also. is their a good guide to deciding BPM?

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    You can play it at whatever works for you. A good way to check the tempos given in the sources you've found would be to measure the tempo that Green Day used. Find as many different recordings as you can and time them.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 23:56
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    Do the 94 bpm sheet music have note values that are half the value of the 172 bpm sheet music note values?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 0:17
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    For goodness' sake, just listen to the original recording! Match your metronome to that. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 14:50
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    Although this isn’t a great question, and most of us users immediately understand the problem here, it might be worth somebody posting a generic question/answer about why you might see transcriptions with double/half bpms... Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 19:49
  • @BobBroadley or nearly so? Half of 172 is 86, and twice 94 is 188.
    – phoog
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 1:21

5 Answers 5

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This is the type of situation where just listening to the song really helps. Use the sheet music to guide which notes your supposed to play, but if there's ambiguity in the sheet then just listen and decide what sounds right.

I listened to the Spotify version of the song, and tapped along using this online BPM calculator: http://www.beatsperminuteonline.com/. I ended up hearing closer to BPM = 188. There are probably lots of variations with different tempos, particularly live versions of the song.

As for the BPM = 94, I couldn't find any versions of the sheet music online with that tempo, but it could be that those versions used different note values. Instead of representing a note as a quarter note at BPM = 172, maybe they used an eighth note at BPM = 94, which would be approximately the same tempo.

Actually if that is the case that eighth notes were used (at least from what I heard - feel free to tell me I'm wrong) the BPM = 94 might be more accurate because twice that is BPM = 188, which is what I tapped out on the BPM calculator.

Another useful tool is: you can use apps that allow you to play songs at different tempos and loop sections. On Android I use: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smp.musicspeed&hl=en

I typically learn songs at 70% tempo, and then bring the whole thing up to speed at the end. This app let's you select small sections of the song, loop them, and adjust their tempo. So you can listen even at your slower learning tempo. Regardless of the tempo written on the sheet, this method will ensure your tempo is accurate relative to whichever version you like playing.

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  • "Playing by ear" means playing without sheet music or tabs. Adjusting the tempo is a separate topic. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 14:52
  • The faster tempo could also refer to quarter notes but with twice as many measures.
    – phoog
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 1:23
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No-one's suggesting there are alternate speeds for this song, one twice as fast as the other! It's just about how you count it. One-two-three-four-One-two-three-four or One-and-Two-and-Three-and-Four-and. Both sound the same.

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172 divided by 2 is 86 not 94 so it doesn't work. The reason why is its documented that greenday wasn't very experienced at this point so they actually spliced a bunch of different recordings together since they couldn't stay on beat. The song changes tempo throughout and thats why its difficult. I'm trying to learn it and having difficulty with the timing. The suggested use metronome with recording is the best approach though if your a beginner like me and trying to sing with it, I would come back to this song when your more experienced to figure it out. The strumming pattern is done in 8th note but then he changes it to 16th note strumming later in the song.

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Of course every band as the desire to nuance their own sound timing style. But I think typically when it comes to beats per minute, that a quirky number that is offset from 100 and doesn’t round up or down to something with the zero at the end of it, is going to be short-lived. And it’s going to be a headache to the sound engineer. I have seen songs that are at 110, and some slow down to 90. But very rare in my opinion when it comes to that genre.

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  • Hi Jairus, welcome to Music.SE! Is this properly a second answer, or would this be best served as an edit to your other answer?
    – Richard
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 13:25
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Most everything is 100. 110 or 90 is rare, so if you’re counting time and you are anywhere close to 100 it probably is your mistake and it is one hundred. But like the previous comments said if you’re seeing numbers like 200 then it’s still probably 100 only you are counting twice as fast. Happy birthday is typically sung at 100 bpm. “Happy” is sung as one syllable. Not hap-py in a two count. That’s how you sing it in two hundred.

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