11 Popular Songs With Steady Beat (And How To Use Them)

image 11 popular songs with steady beat

Are you looking for engaging ways to reinforce steady beat with your students? 

Do you want to include more popular music, but you’re unsure if you should or where to start? 

You may enjoy the list of popular songs with steady beat. 

Used in moderation, popular songs with steady beat can be a great way to build experience with steady beat, motivate students, and build relationships. Here are 11 popular songs I like to use: 

  • Uptown Funk – KidzBop
  • Happy
  • Best Day Of My Life
  • Ho Hey
  • Roar
  • Stronger
  • Stereo Hearts
  • Good Feeling
  • Can’t Stop The Feeling
  • Believer
  • I’m Still Standing

Read on for more details and explanations about using popular songs with strong steady beat. 

What Is A Steady Beat In Music?

Steady beat is the pulse of the music. The rhythm fits into the steady beat. 

When we talk about “steady” beat versus just a beat, we’re talking about a beat whose pulse is even and doesn’t change. 

A physical example would be someone walking at the same speed for a whole song. The person walking wouldn’t speed up or slow down. 

Steady beat can be fast or slow, but it stays even within itself (allow at special points it may change to a certain degree). This is called tempo, or speed of the beat. 

Note: Beat is not typically referred to the drum patterns being played under a song. This is often called a drum beat, but the steady beat actually refers to the pulse keeping the drum beat together. 

Why Teach Steady Beat? 

In music, most songs will exist with a steady. Understanding the higher elements of rhythm and melody is vastly more difficult without the ability to keep and feel a steady beat. 

On a personal note, being able to perform a steady beat will help you dance better to any music, clap and chant together at sporting events, and rock your children when they don’t feel well or need to go to sleep. 

One of my favorite steady beat resources is the First Steps In Music curriculum.

I love how it focuses on helping master singing in tune, keeping a beat, and expressing emotion.

Check it out at the link (affiliate, we may earn a commission at no cost to you).

The set will get you through multiple years, easily.

When To Use Popular Songs

Popular songs are a tricky thing to include in your music classroom. There are pros and cons for using them. 

Pros: 

  • Get more student engagement
  • Students are more familiar with them already
  • Makes learning more applicable to their real life

Cons: 

  • Often use inappropriate words or topics
  • Go in and out of popularity rapidly
  • Poor quality musical expression
  • Can encourage damaging singing technique

So, the question remains of when to use popular songs in your classroom. 

For me, I use them rarely, but I will in the following ways. 

Demonstrate a learned concept 

When I’ve used folk song and pieces to teach and practice concepts such as steady beat, rhythm, or pitch already, I will throw in a popular song which also demonstrates the idea. 

I don’t want them to just enjoy the music, but I want them to connect their new learning with music today. 

As a reward

My student teachers always ask me about classroom management. While I believe management is 99% engagement, I’m not above the occasional bribery. 

Usually, I bribe with instruments or silly music-related videos, but sometimes you can motivate your hard-to-reach students by playing their favorite school appropriate popular songs. 

To build relationships

We all have that student that won’t give you the time of day, no matter how much we try to relate to them. But we all know the power of music. 

Asking them about their favorite artists and then searching for a school appropriate choice can surprise them and help build that relationship which will result in more participation from the student. 

The Verdict

What do I recommend? Use popular songs sparingly, maybe once every 3-5 music class depending on how often you see them. 

I heard a great analogy at a conference about popular music. If music is like a healthy diet, popular songs are like dessert. 

It’s great fun to include, but too much will spoil your appetite and cause poorer health. 

When students question me about this philosophy, I use another analogy with them: 

Student: Why don’t we do more real music, like on the radio? 

Me: Why doesn’t your fourth grade teacher practice the alphabet with you anymore? 

Student: Umm… ‘cause that’s Kindergarten stuff. 

Me: Wait? You’re saying you don’t want to do that because you already know it? 

Student: Yeah…(eye roll possible)

Me: So, a teacher’s job isn’t to teach you things you already know, right? 

Student: Right. (about 60% still won’t see where you’re going, so you’ll probably have to spell it out). 

Me: So, while I love some of this music too, I have to teach with things you don’t know. But we’ll more with this stuff another day. 

Student: OK, Mr. V. You’re the coolest music teacher ever! (I may be stretching it at this point.)

11 Popular Songs With Strong Steady Beat

In this section, I’ve included 11 popular songs I like to use that teach steady beat. I’ve included songs with driving steady beats and links to their YouTube videos in our playlist.

Here’s our playlist with all these songs in one place. 

Note: As a teacher, it’s still you’re responsible to approve these songs for your students and school. 

#1 Uptown Funk – KidzBop

This song has still taken the world by storm, and a huge part of that is it’s strong steady beat. You do need to make sure you use the KidzBop or edited version of the song. 

Appropriate Rating: 9/10 if KidzBop, 1/10 if original

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 9/10

#2 Happy

From the Despicable Me 2 movie, this song is a blast to sing and dance with. Looking for popular songs in a kid’s movies is a good place to find school-appropriate ones. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10 

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 9/10

#3 Best Day Of My Life

This catchy tune is all about positivity. It’s still fairly modern too. 

Appropriate Rating: 9/10

Beat Rating: 8/10

Student Approval: 8/10

#4 Ho Hey

This Lumineers song is fun to sing with, the only slight problem is the phrase “bleeding’ out.” But even that can be glossed over without much problem. 

Appropriate Rating: 7/10

Beat Rating: 8/10

Student Approval: 8/10

#5 Roar

Katy Perry’s uplifting anthems has a powerful message and beat. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10

Beat Rating: 9/10

Student Approval: 8/10

#6 Stronger

Kelly Clarkson’s anthem may have written a few years back now, but many still like it. The message and beat are strong. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10 

Beat Rating: 9/10

Student Approval: 7/10

#7 Stereo Hearts

This Gym Class Heroes/Adam Levine collaboration includes school-appropriate rapping along with a great hook to sing along with. 

Appropriate Rating: 9/10

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 9/10

#8 Good Feeling

Flo Rida doesn’t have a lot of school appropriate songs, but this one has a killer beat and a great message about not giving up on yourself. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 10/10

#9 Can’t Stop The Feeling

Justin Timeberlake’s song for the Trolls movie is fun to sing with and encourages you to dance. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 9/10

#10 Believer

If I’m being honest, I love Imagine Dragons, and kids do too. Unfortunately, most of their songs drop the word “hell” at least once, but this one doesn’t.

While the lyrics aren’t bad, they are not positive. But music isn’t always positive either. 

Appropriate Rating: 7/10 

Beat Rating: 8/10

Student Approval: 12/10

#11 I’m Still Standing – Sing

This Elton John cover of his classic comeback song may be “old” for the students, but the movie Sing and Taron Egerton’s version has made it relevant again. The message is positive as well. 

Appropriate Rating: 10/10

Beat Rating: 10/10

Student Approval: 8/10 (99/10 for me!)

4 Quick Steady Beat Activities

Here are 4 quick steady beat activities you can do with your students while listening to these songs. 

Mirror Move – Students move to match the teacher. You should change the motions when the phrase changes; this reinforces the feeling of phrases naturally. 

Follow The Leader – Using a special item of your choice, whoever holds the special item gets to make the beat motion to the song, and the class follows them. 

This also lets you assess the leader’s ability to control the steady beat. 

Macro vs. Micro Concentration – Students alternate between macrobeat on the floor and microbeat on their laps. The sign to switch is when you strike a triangle. 

Folk Dance Confusion – Most popular songs use the same 8-16 measure phrases folk dances do. You could try to call out a folk dance they already know to the beat and phrase of one of the most popular songs. 

Conclusion

I hope you can take this list of popular songs with strong steady beat and include it somehow in your lessons. Remember to not use too much, but every once in a while will do you and your class some good! 

Want to check out some headache-saving music activities and resources? I love purusing what’s on their digital and printable lessons.

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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