One of the biggest frustrations almost all cycling instructors have is with the music. This is not just the case with new instructors (though it is one of the most common worries I hear from them); even if you feel confident about finding and using music based on the beat, energy, and the emotion of the music, it can still be a time-consuming process for instructors who really care about a quality product.
In my opinion, the key to cutting down the time required to create interesting and varied playlists with a wide range of genres is to have large playlist “buckets” from which to draw. Buckets are large playlists that meet a certain criterium that you’ve set. They are not the same as your playlists that you create for one specific class.
The criteria for your bucket can be a theme such as a seasonal theme (winter, Valentine’s Day, Back to School, etc.), a tempo (beats per minute), how you would use the song (warm-up, cool-down, recovery, sprints, FTP tests, etc.), how the song makes you feel (motivating tracks, funny songs, emotional finishes, etc.), length of the song, genres and years (classic rock, female artists, 1990s hip-hop, 1980s retro, disco, etc.), songs with certain words (Hey!, Go!, ready, boom, colors, cities in the US, songs about water, etc.) and so much more. There are so many ways to categorize your music. (As of this writing, I have almost 2,000 playlists on Spotify, including my profile playlists and many hundreds of themed bucket playlists.)
At ICA, I’ve been creating these bucket playlists on Spotify since 2016 (when I finally made the leap from iTunes to Spotify, begrudgingly at first, then thankfully). We’ve shared well over a hundred of them on ICA, mostly theme playlists, and I have many more to share with ICA members.
For example here are all the 6-minute songs you’ll ever need broken down by bpm (five buckets, currently over 500 tracks and growing). I originally created these for profiles that need 6-minute tracks for long intervals, such as 3-2-1 intervals but they can be used in steady-state or any other profiles as well. You can expect many more bucket playlists in the coming months. (You can find the 3-2-1 interval profiles here and here.)
Bucket playlists based on bpm (or rpm if you prefer—you’ll see I address both bpm and rpm in the titles of my bucket playlists) are going to be some of the most-used playlists in your music quiver as you seek out songs for your profiles.
Below are 10 of my bucket playlists broken down by the cadence (rpm) you would attach to that song. I further divide them by music genre, either electronic (including trance, dance, club, downtempo, ambient, world, dub, etc.) or pop/rock/indie/alternative music. (Some EDM tracks may be filed in either or both genre buckets depending on how much the song leans towards pop music.)
Even if you don’t teach by pedaling to the beat, these bpm/rpm categories can still come in handy. You’ll find that the tempo of the song is often (but not always) similar to the energy of the song. For non-beat-riding instructors, you may choose to categorize your playlist buckets more by terrain and energy, such as “climbing songs,” “attacks on a hill,” “flat road moderate,” “surges,” or similar categories.
For Non-Spotify Users
You’re going town to at least get yourself a free Spotify account. That way, you can still create these large playlist buckets and categorize tracks you enjoy. Use the ICA suggestions (both profile playlists and bucket playlists) and “follow” them to add them to your Spotify account. Then you can decide if you like the song(s) in that playlist and either duplicate a similar playlist in your preferred streaming music resource (such as Apple Music) or purchase the tracks and add them to your own iTunes library. Bucket playlists can be created in any of the popular streaming music sources.
Personally, I do still use my iTunes for some playlists. One of the nice things about Spotify is that if you can’t find a track in their library, or if you have a special hard-to-find remix that is no longer available anywhere else, Spotify can also access tracks from your local library. (It takes a little doing; you will have to Google the instructions on how to attach your iTunes library to your Spotify account.)
My best advice? Take the plunge and join Spotify!
Now, let’s take a look at thousands of songs divided into 10 different buckets base on bpm and genre! As of early 2023, there are about 6,400 songs in these 10 bucket playlists for you to use! They are already divided by genre; to further make your selection easier, simply sort each playlist by duration and you can select the specific length song you need, such as songs that are 3.5 to 4 minutes long of 70 to 80 rpm.
This is fabulous!! Just what I needed!! Thank you so much!
OOPS. Just figured it out. Sorry!
Thank you. I have plenty of time to listen to all of this. One question …. the last bucket “79 – 85 RPM Rock/Pop/Imdie/AltR&B (139-170 bpm, or up to 85 bpm) yields a single album by I Hate Kate and not a category ? Did I punch the wrong key ?