Music theory > Duration of sounds > Tempo

Tempo

Tempo, beats, definitions

Tempo refers to the speed at which a piece of music will be played. Tempo means time in Italian.

Beat is a regular pulse which may be dictated by a metronome.

Tempo is measured with the notion of beats per minute (BMP). A fast tempo will have a high BMP number, and a low tempo will have a low BPM number.

Examples of tempo indications


Tempi (plural of tempo) can be indicated with words:

Examples of tempo indication



or with beat duration:

Examples of tempo indication

or with beats per minute (BMP) indication:

Examples of tempo indication


Others examples:



Tempo markings

Use of tempo marks is most commonly in Italian:

Tempo MarkingsDefinitionBMP
Larghissimovery, very slow24
Gravevery slow25–45
Largobroadly40–60
Lentoslowly45–60
Larghettorather broadly60–66
Adagioat ease66–76
Adagiettoslower than andante72–76
Andanteat a walking pace76–108
Andantinofaster than Andante80–108
Andante moderatobetween andante and moderato92–112
Moderatomoderately108–120
Allegrettomoderately fast112–120
Allegro moderato slower thant Allegro116–120
Allegroquickly, fast120–168
Vivacelively and fast168–176
Vivacissimovery fast172–176
Allegrissimovery fast172–176
Allegro vivacevery fast172–176
Prestovery, very fast168–200
Prestissimofaster than Presto200

Tempo change indications:

Tempo marksMeaning
Rallentandogradually slowing
Ritardandogradually slowing
Ritenutoimmediately slowing down
Stringendogradually speeding up
Accelerandogradually speeding up
Meno mossoslower
Più mossoimmediately faster
Meno mossoimmediately slower
A temporeturning to a previous tempo
Tempo primoreturning to tempo at beginning
L'istesso tempothe same tempo (when the meter changes)
Rubatofree adjustment of tempo for expressive purposes

Metronome

Using a metronome is the best way to keep the tempo till stable, nothing can disturb it.

metronome metronome

Each musician must have a metronome, it is the only tool to help you to keep the tempo stable.


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