Categories
SQL 201

All About SQL Aggregate Functions

Time for some fun with SQL aggregate functions, and Mariah Carey

SQL Aggregate Functions bring your data to life.

They allow you to take a standard table and use a function or two to build metrics and answer questions about the data. If you are familiar with Pivot Tables or Excel Functions the terminology is similar and you’ll be up and running in no time.


Introduction
COUNT all the things!
COUNT DISTINCT
GROUP BY
ORDER BY
GROUP BY multiple columns
HAVING
Types of Functions available


Introduction to Aggregate Functions

In this example, I’m going to be using a subset of the Billboard Top 100 dataset, available on Kaggle. I grew up in the 90s so I’ve loaded the 90s rows into a table called music_charts in SQL Server.

First up, I’m going to look at what I’m dealing with:


sql server aggregate

The table has loaded in fine with the four columns I am looking for. But, if I am to answer any of my burning questions about 90s music and who was the top of the charts I’m going to need to use aggregate functions.


COUNT all the things!

The first way to explore this dataset is to COUNT how large it is. This is similar to the COUNT function in Excel and works in the same way.

This function counts up all the rows and returns, in this case, 1000 to the results window. 100 rows per year over 10 years. It’s all there and ready to go.


COUNT DISTINCT

This has returned a COUNT of 545 DISTINCT artists from the table. It still isn’t super useful so we need to add more columns.

Next up, I want to see how many artists are in the table. I can see that there are duplicates where an artist reached the top of the charts more than once.  We can do that by combining COUNT with DISTINCT:


Filtering with GROUP BY

It’s nice to have some facts and figures, but it would be more useful to answer some questions like ‘which artist featured the most across the top 100 charts in the 1990s?’

Similar to a Pivot Table in Excel, we can do this by adding more columns.

However, it’s not quite as simple as just dropping in a column. If we run this query we get an error.


sql server aggregate

We need to explicitly say that we want all the artists to be collapsed down into one row with the count in the artist_count column next door. We do this using GROUP BY.


sql server aggregate

ORDER BY

This is getting close but needs one more clause to answer my question.  By ordering by the artist_count we can see that Mariah Carey appears the most in the dataset. Naturally.


sql server aggregate

GROUP BY multiple columns

Now we have the hang on the syntax we can start drilling into the data further and answering questions like ‘Which Mariah Carey songs featured more often in the Top 100 charts in the 90s?’


sql server aggregate

HAVING

The last thing to cover off is HAVING. This allows us to put a condition on the aggregate. This is different from using a WHERE that puts a condition on individual rows.

To better illustrate how this works let’s use an example where we want to see who has featured on the list more than five times.

We count up the number of artists and then use HAVING as the last step to filter on the count.


sql server aggregates

Types of Functions available

But it doesn’t stop with counting things.

The Basic Aggregate Functions used day to day in SQL Server are:

COUNT,

MIN,

MAX,

SUM,

AVG


Fun with functions doesn’t stop here though. This post is the primer for a SQL Window Functions, a powerful tool that allows us to use Aggregates to create running totals and moving averages.


Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

By Helen Anderson

I’m passionate about technology and building data applications.