How to convert ms (milliseconds) to BPM (beats per minute) and vice versa
Some delay pedals allow you to specifically set the delay time in milliseconds (ms). If you can set a specific delay time, you can achieve a great rhythmic delay that fits in with any song you’re playing. To be able to do this though, you need to convert the song’s tempo into milliseconds. This guide will explain how to do this.
BPM to ms Formula
There are 60,000 milliseconds in a minute so if you want to work out how long a beat is in milliseconds for any tempo, simply follow the below formula:
60,000 / BPM = one beat in milliseconds
For example: 60,000 / 100 bpm = 600ms
This means that if you want to set your delay pedal for a one beat delay and the tempo is 100 bpm, you should set your pedal to 600ms. What if you want to set your delay to repeat eighth notes? Simply halve the time for one beat. So an eighth note at 100 bpm is 300ms (600 / 2).
Always remember that this simple formula works out what one beat is in milliseconds, so if you want to set it to 8th notes, 16th notes or anything else, you will need to work out the difference.
BPM to ms Calculator
Use the below calculator to quickly work out the time in milliseconds for a given tempo. It can even work out the time for a dotted-eighth note delay in milliseconds.
Simply enter the time in BPM and it will instantly work out the time in ms for you.
Quick BPM to ms Reference Table
Use this table as a quick way to figure out a note length in ms at any tempo. This table is for music with a 4/4 time signature. So if you wanted the delay to last an entire bar (4 beats), you would look at the times in the first column under ‘Whole Note’. So you can still use this table for time signatures such as 6/8, but the difference would be that the column labelled ‘Quarter’ will be equivalent to an eighth note in 6/8 time.
How to work out times for higher tempos
If the tempo you want to convert is over 140 bpm, simply halve your target tempo, then half the ms time shown for that tempo. Eg: to work out an eighth note at 160 bpm, you would look on the 80 bpm row – which shows 375 ms for an eighth note, then halve that. 375 ms / 2 = 188 ms. So an eighth note at 160 bpm is 188 ms.
How to work out times for lower tempos
If the tempo you want to convert is lower than 60 bpm, simply double your target tempo, then double the ms time shown for that tempo. Eg: to work out an eighth note at 40 bpm, you would look on the 80 bpm row – which shows 375 ms for an eighth note, then double that. 375 ms x 2 = 750 ms. So an eighth note at 40 bpm is 750 ms.
Different Delay Settings To Try Out
There are so many different ways you can use a delay pedal in a rhythmic way. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Eighth note slapback
Set your delay pedal to repeat your signal once (called a slapback delay) with a high mix. Set a metronome to 120 bpm and set your pedal to an eighth note delay which is 250ms if you look on the table. Now, whatever you play will be repeated after an eighth note. Try playing an eighth note scalar run along with the metronome (just to get used to the tempo). Then experiment with random eighth notes in any scale so you can see how the delayed note will harmonize over your playing.
Dotted eighth note delay
This is very common as it creates a great rhythmic effect with an interesting pulse. While some delay pedals will have a specific setting to enable a dotted eighth delay, others won’t. The BPM to ms calculator earlier can calculate the delay time in ms for a dotted eighth delay.
16th rhythmic effect
With this setting you will be playing a single chord once per bar and the delay pedal will repeat it as a 16th note rhythm. Set your metronome to 80 bpm and set your delay pedal to 188ms which is 16th notes on the table. Now adjust your delay pedal to repeat the signal at least 16 times before it fades out. Simply play a chord at the start of each bar and listen to how the pedal will create a 16th note rhythm over the bar. Play the chord staccato and listen to how the rhythm creates a very choppy sound. Let the chord ring out for the full bar and listen to how it blends the delayed chords together. This is a great effect for rhythm parts.
Four beat delay
With this effect you are creating a very slow slapback. Set the mix high and the repeat low. Set your metronome to 90 bpm and your delay pedal to repeat after four beats. Looking on the table that is the first column – 2667ms. Keep in mind this will be out of range for analog pedals so if you have an analog pedal, you will need to use a higher tempo. For example, the maximum delay for the MXR Carbon Copy is 600ms – so if you use that pedal, you would need to use a 400 bpm tempo to get this effect! So if you can set your pedal to 2667ms, start your metronome and play a single note over the entire four bars, then change to a different note over the next four bars. You will hear the delayed note harmonize over the top of your playing. Add vibrato to each note and use a technique called ‘violining’ which involves rolling the volume up and down with your little finger of your fretting hand.