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In
musical terminology This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, Music criticism, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian (see also Italian musical terms used in English), in accordance with the Italian ...
, tempo (
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
for "time"; plural ''tempos'', or ''tempi'' from the Italian plural) is the speed or pace of a given
piece Piece or Pieces (not to be confused with peace) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Games * Piece (chess), pieces deployed on a chessboard for playing the game of chess * Pieces (video game), ''Pieces'' (video game), a 1994 puzzle game fo ...
. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece (often using conventional Italian terms) and is usually measured in beats per
minute The minute is a unit Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who'' * Unit of action, a discrete piece of action (or beat) in a theatrical presentation ...
(or bpm). In modern classical compositions, a "
metronome A metronome, from ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following period ...

metronome
mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like
electronic dance music Electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, or simply dance, is a broad range of percussive electronic music Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, or electronics, ...
, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm. Tempo may be separated from articulation and
meter The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter ( American spelling; see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek noun , "measure", and cognate with Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, no ...
, or these aspects may be indicated along with tempo, all contributing to the overall
texture Texture may refer to: Science and technology * Surface texture, the texture means smoothness, roughness, or bumpiness of the surface of an object * Texture (roads), road surface characteristics with waves shorter than road roughness * Texture (co ...
. While the ability to hold a steady tempo is a vital skill for a musical performer, tempo is changeable. Depending on the genre of a piece of music and the performers' interpretation, a piece may be played with slight
tempo rubatoTempo rubato (, , ; 'free in the presentation', literally ) is a musical term This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian (see also Italian mu ...
or drastic variances. In ensembles, the tempo is often indicated by a
conductor Conductor or conduction may refer to: Music * Conductor (music), a person who leads a musical ensemble like, for example, an orchestra. * Conductor (album), ''Conductor'' (album), an album by indie rock band The Comas * Conduction, a type of ...
or by one of the instrumentalists, for instance the
drummer thumbnail, Turkmenistan Independence Day, 2011 A drummer is a percussionist who creates music using drum The drum is a member of the percussion instrument, percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classificati ...
.


Measurement

While tempo is described or indicated in many different ways, including with a range of words (e.g., "Slowly", "Adagio" and so on), it is typically measured in beats per minute (bpm or BPM). For example, a tempo of 60 beats per minute signifies one beat per second, while a tempo of 120 beats per minute is twice as rapid, signifying one beat every 0.5 seconds. The
note value In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the texture or shape of the ''notehead Natural harmonics on the cello notated first as sounded (more common), then as fingered (easier to sightread). In musi ...
of a beat will typically be that indicated by the denominator of the
time signature The time signature (also known as meter signature, metre signature, or measure signature) is a notational convention used in Western culture, Western musical notation to specify how many beat (music), beats (pulses) are contained in each measur ...
. For instance, in the beat will be a
crotchet 300px, Four quarter notes. Quarter notes are the smallest note value not beamed together. A quarter note (American) or crotchet (British) is a note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). Often, musicians will ...
, or ''quarter note''. This measurement and indication of tempo became increasingly popular during the first half of the 19th century, after
Johann Nepomuk MaelzelJohann Nepomuk Maelzel (or Mälzel; August 15, 1772 – July 21, 1838) was a German inventor, engineer, and showman, best known for manufacturing a metronome and several music-playing automatons, and displaying a fraudulent chess machine. He worked w ...
invented the
metronome A metronome, from ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following period ...

metronome
.
Beethoven
Beethoven
was one of the first composers to use the metronome; in the 1810s he published metronomic indications for the eight symphonies he had composed up to that time. Instead of beats per minute, some 20th-century classical composers (e.g.,
Béla Bartók Béla Viktor János Bartók (; hu, Bartók Béla, ; 25 March 1881 – 26 September 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century; he and Franz Liszt a ...
,
Alberto Ginastera Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (; April 11, 1916June 25, 1983) was an Argentinian composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was origi ...
, and John Cage) specify the total playing time for a piece, from which the performer can derive tempo. With the advent of modern electronics, bpm became an extremely precise measure.
Music sequencer A music sequencer (or audio sequencer or simply sequencer) is a device or application software Application software (app for short) is computing software designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the com ...
s use the bpm system to denote tempo. In popular music genres such as
electronic dance music Electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, or simply dance, is a broad range of percussive electronic music Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, or electronics, ...
, accurate knowledge of a tune's bpm is important to
DJs A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Most common types of DJs include Radio personality, radio DJs, club DJs (who work at a nightclub or music festival), mobile DJs (who are hired ...
for the purposes of
beatmatching Beatmatching or pitch cue is a disc jockey technique of pitch shifting or Audio timescale-pitch modification, timestretching an upcoming track to match its tempo to that of the currently playing track, and to adjust them such that the beats (and ...
. The speed of a piece of music can also be gauged according to measures per minute (mpm) or bars per minute (bpm), the number of measures of the piece performed in one minute. This measure is commonly used in
ballroom dance Ballroom dance is a set of partner dances, which are enjoyed both social dance, socially and ballroom dance#Competitive dancing, competitively around the world, mostly because of its performance dance, performance and entertainment aspects. Ballro ...

ballroom dance
music.


Choosing speed

In different musical contexts, different instrumental musicians, singers,
conductors Conductor or conduction may refer to: Music * Conductor (music), a person who leads a musical ensemble like, for example, an orchestra. * Conductor (album), ''Conductor'' (album), an album by indie rock band The Comas * Conduction, a type of ...
,
bandleader A bandleader is the leader of a music group such as a rock or pop band or jazz quartet. The term is most commonly used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz Jazz is a music genre ...
s, music directors or other individuals will select the tempo of a song or piece. In a
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
or
traditional music Folk music is a music genre that includes #Traditional folk music, traditional folk music and the Contemporary folk music, contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be cal ...

traditional music
group or band, the bandleader or
drummer thumbnail, Turkmenistan Independence Day, 2011 A drummer is a percussionist who creates music using drum The drum is a member of the percussion instrument, percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classificati ...
may select the tempo. In popular and traditional music, whoever is setting the tempo often counts out one or two bars in tempo. In some songs or pieces in which a singer or solo instrumentalist begins the work with a solo introduction (prior to the start of the full group), the tempo they set will provide the tempo for the group. In an orchestra or concert band, the conductor normally sets the tempo. In a marching band, the drum major may set the tempo. In a
sound recording Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical, Mechanical system, mechanical, electronic, or digital inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of s ...

sound recording
, in some cases a
record producer A record producer is a recording project's creative and technical leader, commanding studio time and coaching artists, and in popular genres typically creates the song's very sound and structure.Virgil Moorefield"Introduction" ''The Producer as C ...
may set the tempo for a song (although this would be less likely with an experienced bandleader).


Musical vocabulary

In
classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and state (polity), states, depending on the context, most often consis ...
it is customary to describe the tempo of a piece by one or more words, most commonly in
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
, in addition to or instead of a metronome mark in beats per minute. Italian is typically used because it was the language of most composers during the time these descriptions became commonplace. Some well-known Italian tempo indications include "Allegro" (English “Cheerful”), "Andante" (“Walking-pace”) and "Presto" (“Quickly”). This practice developed during the 17th and 18th centuries, the
baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashion ...
and
classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
periods. In the earlier
Renaissance music Renaissance music is traditionally understood to cover music of the 15th and 16th centuries, later than the Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. was a period in European history marking the transition from t ...
, performers understood most music to flow at a tempo defined by the
tactus
tactus
(roughly the rate of the human heartbeat). The mensural
time signature The time signature (also known as meter signature, metre signature, or measure signature) is a notational convention used in Western culture, Western musical notation to specify how many beat (music), beats (pulses) are contained in each measur ...
indicated which note value corresponded to the tactus. In the Baroque period, pieces would typically be given an indication, which might be a tempo marking (e.g. ''Allegro''), or the name of a dance (e.g. ''Allemande'' or ''Sarabande''), the latter being an indication both of tempo and of metre. Any musician of the time was expected to know how to interpret these markings based on custom and experience. In some cases, however, these markings were simply omitted. For example, the first movement of
Bach Johann Sebastian Bach (28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the '' Brandenburg Concertos'' and the '' Goldberg Variations'', and for vocal music such as the ' ...

Bach
's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 has no tempo or mood indication whatsoever. Despite the increasing number of explicit tempo markings, musicians still observe conventions, expecting a
minuet A minuet (; also spelled ''menuet'') is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in time. The word was adapted from Italian ''minuetto'' and French ''menuet'', possibly from the French ''menu'' meaning slender, small, referrin ...
to be at a fairly stately tempo, slower than a Viennese waltz; a
perpetuum mobile In music, ''perpetuum mobile'' (English pronunciation /pərˌpɛtjʊəm ˈmoʊbɪleɪ/, /ˈmoʊbɪli/; literally, "perpetual motion"), ''moto perpetuo'' ( Italian), ''mouvement perpétuel'' ( French), ''movimento perpétuo'' ( Portuguese) ''movimie ...
quite fast, and so on. Genres imply tempos. Thus,
Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (, ; baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classic ...

Ludwig van Beethoven
wrote "In tempo d'un Menuetto" over the first movement of his Piano Sonata Op. 54, though that movement is not a minuet. Many tempo markings also indicate mood and expression. For example, ''presto'' and ''allegro'' both indicate a speedy execution (''presto'' being faster), but ''allegro'' also connotes joy (from its original meaning in Italian). ''Presto'', on the other hand, simply indicates speed. Additional Italian words also indicate tempo and mood. For example, the "agitato" in the ''Allegro agitato'' of the last movement of
George Gershwin George Gershwin (; born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz; September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer, pianist and painter whose compositions spanned both popular and classical genres. Among his best-known works are the orchestra ...

George Gershwin
's piano concerto in F has both a tempo indication (undoubtedly faster than a usual ''Allegro'') and a mood indication ("agitated"). Often, composers (or music publishers) name
movements Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), commonly referred to as movement Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Movement (short story), "Movement", a short ...
of compositions after their tempo (or mood) marking. For instance, the second movement of
Samuel Barber Samuel Osmond Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...

Samuel Barber
's first
String Quartet A string quartet is a musical ensemble consisting of four string instrument, string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist – or a musical composition written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the ...
is an ''Adagio''. Often a particular
musical form In music, form refers to the structure of a musical composition or performance. In his book, ''Worlds of Music'', Jeff Todd Titon suggests that a number of organizational elements may determine the formal structure of a piece of music, such as "th ...
or
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, m ...
implies its own tempo, so composers need place no further explanation in the score.
Popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
charts use terms such as ''bossa nova'', ''ballad'', and ''Latin rock'' in much the same way.
Lead sheet A lead sheet or fake sheet is a form of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hu ...
s and
fake book A lead sheet or fake sheet is a form of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hu ...
music for jazz or popular music may use several terms, and may include a tempo term and a genre term, such as "slow blues", "medium shuffle" or "fast rock".


Basic tempo markings

Here follows a list of common tempo markings. The beats per minute (bpm) values are very rough approximations for time. These terms have also been used inconsistently through time and in different geographical areas. One striking example is that ''Allegretto'' hastened as a tempo from the 18th to the 19th century: originally it was just above ''Andante'', instead of just below ''Allegro'' as it is now. As another example, a modern ''largo'' is slower than an ''adagio'', but in the Baroque period it was faster. From slowest to fastest: * ''Larghissimo'' – very, very slow (24 bpm and under) * ''Adagissimo'' – very slow (24-40 bpm) * ''Grave'' – very slow (25–45 bpm) * ''Largo'' – slow and broad (40–60 bpm) * ''Lento'' – slow (45–60 bpm) * ''Larghetto'' – rather slow and broad (60–66 bpm) * ''Adagio'' – slow with great expression (66–76 bpm) * ''Adagietto'' – slower than ''andante'' (72–76 bpm) or slightly faster than ''adagio'' (70–80 bpm) * ''Andante'' – at a walking pace (76–108 bpm) * ''Andantino'' – slightly faster than ''andante'' (although, in some cases, it can be taken to mean slightly slower than ''andante'') (80–108 bpm) * ''Marcia moderato'' – moderately, in the manner of a march (83–85 bpm) * ''Moderato'' – at a moderate speed (108–120 bpm) * ''Andante moderato'' – between ''andante'' and ''moderato'' (thus the name) (92–112 bpm) * ''Allegretto'' – by the mid-19th century, moderately fast (112–120 bpm); see paragraph above for earlier usage * ''Allegro moderato'' – close to, but not quite ''allegro'' (116–120 bpm) * ''Allegro'' – fast, quick, 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'' or ''Allegro vivace'' – very fast (172–176 bpm) * ''Presto'' – very, very fast (168–200 bpm) * ''Prestissimo'' – even faster than ''presto'' (200 bpm and over)


Additional terms

* ''A piacere'' – the performer may use their own discretion with regard to tempo and rhythm; literally "at pleasure" * ''Accelerando'' – gradually play faster * ''Assai'' – (very) much * ''A tempo'' – resume previous tempo * ''Con grazia'' – with grace, or gracefully * ''Con moto'' – Italian for "with movement"; can be combined with a tempo indication, e.g., ''Andante con moto'' * ''Lamentoso'' – sadly, plaintively * ''L'istesso'', ''L'istesso tempo'', or ''Lo stesso tempo'' – at the same speed; ''L'istesso'' is used when the actual speed of the music has not changed, despite apparent signals to the contrary, such as changes in time signature or note length (half notes in could change to whole notes in , and they would all have the same duration) * ''Ma non tanto'' – but not so much; used in the same way and has the same effect as ''Ma non troppo'' (see immediately below) but to a lesser degree * ''Ma non troppo'' – but not too much; used to modify a basic tempo to indicate that the basic tempo should be reined in to a degree; for example, ''Adagio ma non troppo'' to mean ″Slow, but not too much″, ''Allegro ma non troppo'' to mean ″Fast, but not too much″ * ''Maestoso'' – majestically, stately * ''Molto'' – very * ''meno'' – less * ''Più'' – more * ''Poco'' – a little * ''Subito'' – suddenly * ''Tempo comodo'' – at a comfortable speed * ''Tempo di...'' – the speed of a ... (such as ''Tempo di valzer'' (speed of a waltz,  ≈ 60 bpm or ≈ 126 bpm), ''Tempo di marcia'' (speed of a
march March is the third month of the year and named after Mars in both the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a minor mod ...
,  ≈ 120 bpm)) * ''
Tempo giusto ''Tempo giusto'' () is a musical term that literally means 'in exact time', often directing a return to strict time following a period of rubatoTempo rubato (, , ; "free in the presentation", literally ) is a musical term referring to expressive ...
'' – at a consistent speed, at the 'right' speed, in strict tempo * ''Tempo primo'' – resume the original (first) tempo * ''Tempo semplice'' – simple, regular speed, plainly


French tempo markings

Several composers have written markings in French, among them baroque composers
François Couperin François Couperin (; 10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733) was a French Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, ...

François Couperin
and
Jean-Philippe Rameau Jean-Philippe Rameau (; – ) was one of the most important French composers and music theory, music theorists of the 18th century. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading Frenc ...

Jean-Philippe Rameau
as well as
Claude Debussy (Achille) Claude Debussy (; 22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the ...
,
Olivier Messiaen Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen (, ; ; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithology, ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex; Harmon ...
,
Maurice Ravel Joseph Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with Impressionism in music, Impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers ...

Maurice Ravel
and
Alexander Scriabin Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (; russian: Александр Николаевич Скрябин ; – ) was a Russian composer and pianist. In his early years he was greatly influenced by the music of Frédéric Chopin, and wrote works in a re ...
. Common tempo markings in
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consistin ...
are: * ''Au mouvement'' – play the (first or main) tempo. * ''Grave'' – slowly and solemnly * ''Lent'' – slowly * ''Moins'' – less, as in ''Moins vite'' (less fast) * ''Modéré'' – at a moderate tempo * ''Vif'' – lively * ''Très'' – very, as in ''Très vif'' (very lively) * ''Vite'' – fast * ''Rapide'' – rapidly
Erik Satie Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (, ; ; 17 May 18661 July 1925), who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884, was a French composer and pianist. Satie was an influential artist in the late 19th- and early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was ...

Erik Satie
was known to write extensive tempo (and character) markings by defining them in a poetical and literal way, as in his Gnossiennes.


German tempo markings

Many composers have used
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...
tempo markings. Typical German tempo markings are: * ''Kräftig'' – vigorous or powerful * ''Langsam'' – slowly * ''Lebhaft'' – lively (mood) * ''Mäßig'' – moderately * ''Rasch'' – quickly * ''Schnell'' – fast * ''Bewegt'' – animated, with motion One of the first German composers to use tempo markings in his native language was
Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (, ; baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classic ...

Ludwig van Beethoven
, but only sparsely.
Robert Schumann Robert Schumann (; 8 June 181029 July 1856) was a German composer, pianist, and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic music, Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to p ...

Robert Schumann
followed afterwards with increasingly specific markings, and later composers like
Hindemith Image:Paul Hindemith 1923.jpg, Paul Hindemith aged 28 Paul Hindemith (; 16 November 189528 December 1963) was a prolific German composer, viola, violist, violinist, teacher and Conducting, conductor. In the 1920s, he became a major advocate of th ...
and
Mahler Gustav Mahler (; 7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism ...
would further elaborate on combined tempo and mood instructions in German. For example, the second
movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), commonly referred to as movement Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Movement (short story), "Movement", a shor ...
of Mahler's Symphony No. 9 is marked ''Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers, etwas täppisch und sehr derb'', indicating a slowish folk-dance-like movement, with some awkwardness and much vulgarity in the execution. Mahler would also sometimes combine German tempo markings with traditional Italian markings, as in the first movement of his sixth symphony, marked ''Allegro energico, ma non troppo. Heftig, aber markig'' (Energetically quick, but not too much. Violent, but vigorous).


English tempo markings

English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
indications, for example ''quickly'', have also been used, by
Benjamin Britten Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal mu ...

Benjamin Britten
and
Percy Grainger Percy Aldridge Grainger (born George Percy Grainger; 8 July 188220 February 1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist who lived in the United States from 1914 and became an American citizen in 1918. In the course of a long and ...
, among many others. In
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognize ...
and
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
lead sheet A lead sheet or fake sheet is a form of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hu ...
s and
fake book A lead sheet or fake sheet is a form of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent wikt:aurally, aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hu ...
charts, terms like "fast", "laid back", "steady rock", "medium", "medium-up", "ballad", "brisk", "brightly" "up", "slowly", and similar style indications may appear. In some lead sheets and fake books, both tempo and genre are indicated, e.g., "slow blues", "fast swing", or "medium Latin". The genre indications help
rhythm section A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band (music), band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and Pulse (music), pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest ...
instrumentalists use the correct style. For example, if a song says "medium shuffle", the drummer plays a
shuffle Shuffling is a procedure used to randomize a deck of playing card A playing card is a piece of specially prepared card stock, heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic that is marked with distingui ...
drum pattern; if it says "fast boogie-woogie", the piano player plays a
boogie-woogie Boogie-woogie is a music genre of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs ...
bassline. "Show tempo", a term used since the early days of
Vaudeville Vaudeville (; ) is a theatrical Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a sp ...
, describes the traditionally brisk tempo (usually 160–170 bpm) of opening songs in
stage revues
stage revues
and musicals. Humourist
Tom Lehrer Thomas Andrew Lehrer (; born April 9, 1928) is a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician, having lectured on mathematics and musical theater. He is best known for the pithy and humorous songs that he recorded in ...
uses facetious English tempo markings in his anthology ''Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer''. For example, "National Brotherhood Week" is to be played "fraternally"; "We Will All Go Together" is marked "eschatologically"; and "Masochism Tango" has the tempo "painstakingly". His English contemporaries
Flanders and Swann Flanders and Swann were a British comedy duo. Lyricist, actor and singer Michael Flanders (1922–1975) and composer and pianist Donald Swann (1923–1994) collaborated in writing and performing comedy music, comic songs. They first worked to ...
have similarly marked scores, with the music for their song "The Whale (Moby Dick)" shown as "oceanlike and vast".


Variation through a piece

Tempo is not necessarily fixed. Within a piece (or within a movement of a longer work), a composer may indicate a complete change of tempo, often by using a
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and introducing a new tempo indication, often with a new
time signature The time signature (also known as meter signature, metre signature, or measure signature) is a notational convention used in Western culture, Western musical notation to specify how many beat (music), beats (pulses) are contained in each measur ...
and/or
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key signature
. It is also possible to indicate a more or less gradual change in tempo, for instance with an ''accelerando'' (speeding up) or ''ritardando'' (''rit''., slowing down) marking. Indeed, some compositions chiefly comprise ''accelerando'' passages, for instance Monti's ''Csárdás'', or the Russian Civil War song
Echelon Song The ''Echelon Song'' (russian: Эшелонная есня, also known as ''Song for Voroshilov'' () or ''Battle of the Red Guards'' (), is a Russian song written in 1933 by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, A. V. Alexandrov (music) and Osip ...
. On the smaller scale,
tempo rubatoTempo rubato (, , ; 'free in the presentation', literally ) is a musical term This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian (see also Italian mu ...
refers to changes in tempo within a
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, often described as some notes 'borrowing' time from others.


Terms for change in tempo

Composers may use expressive marks to adjust the tempo: * ''Accelerando'' – speeding up (abbreviation: ''accel.'') Opposite of Ritardando, it is an Italian term pronounced as ht-che-le-rahn-dawand is defined by gradually increasing the tempo until the next tempo mark is noted. It is either marked by a dashed line or simply its abbreviation. * ''Affrettando'' – speeding up with a suggestion of anxiety * ''Allargando'' – growing broader; decreasing tempo, usually near the end of a piece * ''Calando'' – going slower (and usually also softer) * ''Doppio movimento'' / ''doppio più mosso'' – double-speed * ''Doppio più lento'' – half-speed * ''Lentando'' – gradually slowing, and softer * ''Meno mosso'' – less movement; slower * ''Meno moto'' – less motion * ''Più mosso'' – more movement; faster * ''Mosso'' – movement, more lively; quicker, much like ''più mosso'', but not as extreme * ''Precipitando'' – hurrying; going faster/forward * ''Rallentando'' – a gradual slowing down (abbreviation: ''rall.'') * ''Ritardando'' – slowing down gradually; also see rallentando and ritenuto (abbreviations: ''rit.'', ''ritard.'') sometimes replaces allargando. * ''Ritenuto'' – slightly slower, but achieved more immediately than ''rallentando or'' ''ritardando''; a sudden decrease in tempo; temporarily holding back. (Note that the abbreviation for ''ritenuto'' can also be ''rit.'' Thus a more specific abbreviation is ''riten.'' Also, sometimes ''ritenuto'' does not reflect a tempo change but rather a 'character' change.) * ''
RubatoTempo rubato (, , ; 'free in the presentation', literally ) is a musical terminology, musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the Solo (music ...
'' – free adjustment of tempo for expressive purposes, literally "stolen"—so more strictly, to take time from one beat to slow another * ''Slargando'' – gradually slowing down, literally "slowing down", "widening" or "stretching" * ''
Stretto In music, the Italian term ''stretto'' (plural: ''stretti'') has two distinct meanings: # In a fugue, ''stretto'' (german: Engführung) is the imitation of the subject in close succession, so that the answer enters before the subject is complet ...
'' – in a faster tempo, often used near the conclusion of a section. (Note that in
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compositions, the term ''stretto'' refers to the imitation of the subject in close succession, before the subject is completed, and as such, suitable for the close of the fugue. Used in this context, the term is not necessarily related to tempo.) * ''Stringendo'' – pressing on faster, literally "tightening" * ''Tardando'' – slowing down gradually (same as ''ritardando'') *''Tempo Primo'' – resume the original tempo While the base tempo indication (such as ''Allegro'') typically appears in large type above the
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, adjustments typically appear below the staff or, in the case of keyboard instruments, in the middle of the grand staff. They generally designate a ''gradual'' change in tempo; for immediate tempo shifts, composers normally just provide the designation for the new tempo. (Note, however, that when ''Più mosso'' or ''Meno mosso'' appears in large type above the staff, it functions as a new tempo, and thus implies an immediate change.) Several terms, e.g., ''assai'', ''molto'', ''poco'', ''subito'', control how large and how gradual a change should be (see common qualifiers). After a tempo change, a composer may return to a previous tempo in two ways: * ''a tempo'' – returns to the base tempo after an adjustment (e.g. ''ritardando ... a tempo'' undoes the effect of the ritardando). * ''Tempo primo'' or ''Tempo Io'' – denotes an immediate return to the piece's original base tempo after a section in a different tempo (e.g. ''Allegro ... Lento ... Moderato ... Tempo Io'' indicates a return to the ''Allegro''). This indication often functions as a structural marker in pieces in
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. These terms also indicate an immediate, not a gradual, tempo change. Although they are Italian, composers tend to employ them even if they have written their initial tempo marking in another language.


Tempo–rhythm interaction

One difficulty in defining tempo is the dependence of its perception on rhythm, and, conversely, the dependence of rhythm perception on tempo. Furthermore, the tempo-rhythm interaction is context dependent, as explained by
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using an example of the leading rhythm of ″Promenade″ from
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's ''
Pictures at an Exhibition ''Pictures at an Exhibition'', french: Tableaux d'une exposition, link=no is a suite (music), suite of ten pieces—plus a recurring, varied Promenade—composed for piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. The suite is Mussorgsky' ...
'': This rhythm is perceived as it is rather than as the first three events repeated at a double tempo (denoted as R012 = repeat from 0, one time, twice faster): However, the motive with this rhythm in the Mussorgsky's piece is rather perceived as a repeat This context-dependent perception of tempo and rhythm is explained by the principle of correlative perception, according to which data are perceived in the simplest way. From the viewpoint of Kolmogorov's complexity theory, this means such a representation of the data that minimizes the amount of memory. The example considered suggests two alternative representations of the same rhythm: as it is, and as the rhythm-tempo interaction — a two-level representation in terms of a generative rhythmic pattern and a “tempo curve”. Table 1 displays these possibilities both with and without pitch, assuming that one duration requires one byte of information, one byte is needed for the pitch of one tone, and invoking the repeat algorithm with its parameters R012 takes four bytes. As shown in the bottom row of the table, the rhythm without pitch requires fewer bytes if it is “perceived” as it is, without repetitions and tempo leaps. On the contrary, its melodic version requires fewer bytes if the rhythm is “perceived” as being repeated at a double tempo. Thus, the loop of interdependence of rhythm and tempo is overcome due to the simplicity criterion, which "optimally" distributes the complexity of perception between rhythm and tempo. In the above example, the repetition is recognized because of additional repetition of the melodic contour, which results in a certain redundancy of the musical structure, making the recognition of the rhythmic pattern "robust" under tempo deviations. Generally speaking, the more redundant the "musical support" of a rhythmic pattern, the better its recognizability under augmentations and diminutions, that is, its distortions are perceived as tempo variations rather than rhythmic changes:


Modern classical music

20th-century classical music introduced a wide range of approaches to tempo, particularly thanks to the influence of Modernism (music), modernism and later Postmodern music, postmodernism. While many composers have retained traditional tempo markings, sometimes requiring greater precision than in any preceding period, others have begun to question basic assumptions of the classical tradition like the idea of a consistent, unified, repeatable tempo. Graphic notation (music), Graphic scores show tempo and rhythm in a variety of ways. Polytempo, Polytemporal compositions deliberately utilise performers playing at marginally different speeds. John Cage's compositions approach tempo in diverse ways. For instance ''4′33″'' has a defined duration, but no actual notes, while As Slow as Possible has defined proportions but no defined duration, with one performance intended to last 639 years.


Electronic music


Extreme tempo

More extreme tempos are achievable at the same underlying tempo with very fast drum patterns, often expressed as drum rolls. Such compositions often exhibit a much slower underlying tempo, but may increase the tempo by adding additional percussive beats. Extreme metal subgenres such as speedcore and grindcore often strive to reach unusually fast tempo. The use of extreme tempo was very common in the fast bebop
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognize ...
from the 1940s and 1950s. A common jazz tune such as "Cherokee (Ray Noble song), Cherokee" was often performed at quarter note equal to or sometimes exceeding 368 bpm. Some of Charlie Parker's famous tunes ("Bebop", "Shaw Nuff") have been performed at 380 bpm plus. There is also a subgenre of speedcore known as Speedcore#Subgenres, Extratone, which is defined by music with a BPM over 3,600, or sometimes 1,000 BPM or over.


Beatmatching

In popular music genres such as disco, house music and
electronic dance music Electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, or simply dance, is a broad range of percussive electronic music Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, or electronics, ...
, beatmatching is a technique that DJs use that involves speeding up or slowing down a record (or CDJ player, a speed-adjustable CD player for DJ use) to match the tempo of a previous or subsequent track, so both can be seamlessly mixed. Having beatmatched two songs, the DJ can either seamlessly Fade (audio engineering)#Crossfading, crossfade from one song to another, or play both tracks simultaneously, creating a layered effect. DJs often beatmatch the underlying tempos of recordings, rather than their strict bpm value suggested by the kick drum, particularly when dealing with high tempo tracks. A 240 bpm track, for example, matches the beat of a 120 bpm track without slowing down or speeding up, because both have an underlying tempo of 120 quarter notes per minute. Thus, some soul music (around 75–90 bpm) mixes well with a drum and bass beat (from 150–185 bpm). When speeding up or slowing down a record on a turntable, the pitch and tempo of a track are linked: spinning a disc 10% faster makes both pitch and tempo 10% higher. Software processing to change the pitch without changing the tempo is called Audio timescale-pitch modification, pitch-shifting. The opposite operation, changing the tempo without changing the pitch, is called Audio timescale-pitch modification, time-stretching.


See also

* A capriccio * Alla breve * As Slow as Possible * Bell pattern * Half-time (music) * Multitemporal music * Stop-time


Citations


General sources

Books on tempo in music: * * * * Snoman, Rick (2009). ''The Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques – Second Edition''. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press. . Music dictionaries: * Apel, Willi, ed., ''Harvard Dictionary of Music'', Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969. * Sadie, Stanley; John Tyrrell, eds. (2001). ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', 2nd edition. New York: Grove's Dictionaries. . Examples of musical scores: *


External links


Tempo Terminology, Virginia Tech department of music

Tempo indications for social dances

Tempo variation among and within 300+ recorded performances of Beethoven's 'Eroica' Symphony



Calculate Beats Per Minute

Understanding Musical Tempo
{{Authority control Musical terminology Rhythm and meter Temporal rates