Tempo (Italian for 'time, movement') is the speed of a song or piece of music. It is measured in beats per minute, or BPM. For example, if a song has 4 beats per bar at 100 BPM, there will be 25 bars per minute.
Basic Tempo Markings[change | change source]
From slowest to fastest:
- Larghissimo – very, very slow (24 BPM and under)
- Grave – slow and solemn (25–45 BPM)
- Lento – very slow (40–60 BPM)
- Largo – slowly (45–50 BPM)
- Larghetto – quite broadly (60–69 BPM)
- Adagio – slow and stately (66–76 BPM)
- Adagietto – quite slow (72–76 BPM)
- Andante – at a walking pace (76–108 BPM)
- Andantino – quite faster than andante (but some cases it means a bit slower than andante) (80–108 BPM)
- Marcia moderato – moderately, in the style of a march (83–85 BPM)
- Andante moderato – between andante and moderato (thus the name) (92–98 BPM)
- Moderato – moderately (98–112 BPM)
- Allegretto – by the mid-19th century, moderately fast (102–110 BPM)
- Allegro Moderato - moderately cheerful (116–120 BPM)
- Allegro – fast, quickly and bright (120–156 BPM) (molto allegro is slightly faster than allegro, but always in its range; 124-156 BPM).
- Vivace – lively and fast (156–176 BPM)
- Vivacissimo – very fast and lively (172–176 BPM)
- Allegrissimo – very fast (172–176 BPM)
- Presto – very, very fast (168–200 BPM)
- Prestissimo – extremely fast, even faster than presto (200 BPM and over)
Terms for tempo change:
- Ritardando – little by little slowing down
- Ritenuto - slow down suddenly
- Accelerando – gradually accelerating
Additional Terms[change | change source]
- A piacere – literally "at pleasure"
- A tempo – at the same speed from the beginning
- L'istesso tempo or Lo stesso tempo – at the same speed
- Tempo comodo – at a comfortable (normal) speed
- Tempo di... – the speed of a ... (such as Tempo di valse (speed of a waltz, ≈60 bpm), Tempo di marcia (speed of a march, ≈120 bpm))
- Tempo semplice – simple, regular speed, plainly
Common Qualifiers[change | change source]
- alla – in the manner or style of, as in:
- alla breve – in short style,
- alla marcia – in the style of a march (e.g., Beethoven, op. 101)
- all' ongarese – in Hungarian style
- alla (danza) tedesca – in the style of the Ländler (c. 1800), and similar dances in rather quick triple meter (see Beethoven, op. 79, op. 130)
- alla turca – in the Turkish style, that is, in imitation of Turkish military music (Janizary music), which became popular in Europe in the late 18th century (e.g., Mozart, K. 331, K. 384)
- alla zingarese – in the style of Gypsy music
- assai – very much, as in allegro assai, quite fast
- ben – well, as in ben marcato (well marked or accented)
- con – with,
- fugato – in fugal style,
- in modo – in the style of, in the style of: in modo napolitano (in Neapolitan style), in modo di marcia funebre (in the style of a funeral march)
- meno – less, as in meno mosso (less quickly)
- appena – almost none,
- misterioso – mysterious
- molto – much, very, as in molto allegro (very quick) or molto adagio (very slow)
- non troppo – not too much, e.g. allegro non troppo (or allegro ma non troppo) means "fast, but not too much"
- non tanto – not so much
- più – more, as in più allegro (more quickly);
- poco – little, as in Poco adagio
- poco a poco – little by little, bit by bit
- quasi – like a ... (Più allegro quasi presto, "faster, like presto")
- senza – without, as in senza interruzione (without pause), senza tempo
- sostenuto – sustained, prolonged
- subito – suddenly
References[change | change source]
- American Symphony Orchestra League (1998). Journal of the Conductors' Guild, Vols. 18–19. Viena: The League. p. 27. ISSN 0734-1032
- Caplin, William E.; Hepokoski, James; Webster, James; Berge, Pieter (2010). Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre: Three Methodological Reflections. Leuven University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-90-5867-822-5.
- Apel (1969), p. 42; for the literal translation see the online Italian-English dictionary at WordReference.com.
- Apel (1969), p. 505.
- Apel (1969), p. 834.
- Apel (1969), p. 61.
- Online Italian-English dictionary at WordReference.com.
- Apel (1969), p. 112.
- Apel (1969), p. 520.
- Apel (1969), p. 537.