How to Incorporate Long Intervals, Part 4: Music for Longer Intervals

Longer intervals can present a musical challenge as well as a coaching one. In this post I’ll be giving you tips on finding and selecting appropriate music for your longer intervals. We have curated four different Spotify playlists of different genres and tempos that are 8 minutes and longer. The final chapter of this series will address how to inspire your riders to stay focused during those longer intervals, and you’re going to find that your music selection will have a big impact on your ability to do so.

The questions I hear the most are the following: Do you use just one song, or a couple of songs in an interval that is 8 minutes or longer? Where do you find the long songs? Will your riders enjoy them?

My own personal preference is to use one long song, but since longer songs are few and far between and I don’t want to overuse the ones I love, I do occasionally string several songs together for one interval. I also understand the desire of some instructors to avoid longer songs, especially if they prefer mainstream music and their class is used to songs of 3 or 4 minutes.

If you are going to use two, or perhaps even three songs, here are my suggestions.

  • Try to keep the same beats per minute, or at least within 5–10 bpm so you keep a similar cadence throughout the interval. If preferred, make the second song just a few bpm faster, and if you use a third track, have that one be the fastest of the three. This will allow a slight increase in intensity/power if you don’t touch the resistance knob.
  • Make the last song the highest-energy one.
  • If possible, use a program such as MixMeister to blend the songs so it flows better from one to the next. Or, in Spotify, use a crossfade of 8 to 10 seconds so there is less space between tracks.

Maybe you would like to use longer songs, but don’t know where to find them? We asked ICA instructors to share their favorite long songs over 8 minutes and have compiled over 180 songs for you. (Updated March 2021: now up to 409 songs. This list is always growing!) I’ve taken these songs and divided them into four different playlists in Spotify based on the genre and the tempo of the songs.

The tempo (bpm) of the song impacts how the song is best used. Some more popular genres (such as pop and EDM, or electronic dance music) are in a fairly narrow tempo range. What this can mean is that if you are a big pop and EDM fan, songs outside of that bpm might not be as popular (in other words, you may not “like” the songs as much), but if you ride on the beat, that narrows what your choices are. On the other hand, if you don’t ride to the beat, you can choose any song you want for any cadence. In a way, that is more liberating and your choice of music is vastly increased across every cadence.

On the other hand, some instructors (and riders, too) simply cannot ride off the beat, especially when they are working hard (it’s easier to disassociate from the beat in a recovery or cool-down, for instance).

I divided the playlists into the following two groups of genres:

  1. Pop, rock, alternative (includes indie, hip-hop, and similar styles).
  2. Electronic (includes EDM, house, trance, dub, downtempo, etc.). Most are primarily instrumental, though dance style (EDM) usually has lyrics.

I then divided each of these into songs good for lower cadence (55–80 rpm) and higher cadence (80–110-ish rpm). A word of warning for those who aren’t sure about music tempo and its relation to cadence…that doesn’t necessarily translate to lower bpm and higher bpm. As you’ll see, a 90 bpm song is used for a faster-cadence effort of 90 rpm, but the higher bpm of 120–140 bpm is used for a lower cadence of 60–70 rpm (climbing or high resistance). In the first example, you pedal with one foot ON every beat, and in the latter example, you pedal with one foot every other beat.

How do you like these playlists? I hope they help you as you explore longer intervals and maybe even open your mind up to genres you might have avoided (or didn’t know about) in the past.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any more questions about music selection for longer intervals. Again, please also tell us if you have a favorite long song we’ve missed.

Coming up. How to Incorporate Longer Intervals, Part 5: 9 Tips to Make Long Intervals More Interesting


3 Responses to “How to Incorporate Long Intervals, Part 4: Music for Longer Intervals”

  1. Bill Pierce says:

    In exploring the back catalog of my current musical obsession, Car Seat HEadrest, I found this gem of a long song that fits into Playlist #2:

    It’s over 14 minutes at 140 BPM. The 5:00 intro is all instrumental so it can be used to start a class or a drill where the instructor needs to be heard. It features deep, introspective lyrics about the artist’s anxieties and includes 2 intensity builds around 9:30 and 13:00. It also features a reference to a Modest Mouse song. I’m planning to use it in an upcoming long interval based profile and probably the only instructor in the world who would use this song.

  2. SaraHogrefe says:

    Thanks so much Jennifer!

    I’ve been coaching my riders over the past 5 weeks with longer intervals (three 10 min sets zone 3-4, 6 min hill repeats, etc) and next Tuesday I am launching my 20 min FTP test!

    Do you think you will have any more info, articles and instructor resources on how to coach the FTP test by end of this week, early next? If not, any guidance you can provide me would be SUPER helpful in rolling it out to my class next week. Thanks so much!

  3. GillianCross says:

    Hi Jennifer
    Is there any chance of a PDF version of these playlists?
    It won’t let me playlists to search for the songs on my music source & I don’t use Spotify.
    Gutted as I use a lot of your music suggestions & always struggle finding longer songs.
    Hope you can help

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