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Basic Tempo Markings
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List of basic musical tempo markings in sequence from slowest to fastest.

 

Tempo refers to the rate of speed at which a piece of music it to be played.

Basic tempo markings

All of these markings are based on a few root words. By adding an -issimo ending the word is amplified/made louder, by adding an -ino ending the word is diminished/made softer, and by adding an -etto ending the word is endeared. The metronome marks are broad approximations. Note: Metronome markings are a guide only and depending on the time signature and the piece itself, these figures may not be appropriate in every circumstance.

  • Larghissimo — very, very slow (20 bpm and below)
  • Grave — slow and solemn (20–40 bpm)
  • Lento — slowly (40–60 bpm)
  • Largo — broadly (40–60 bpm)
  • Larghetto — rather broadly (60–66 bpm)
  • Adagio — slow and stately (literally, "at ease") (66–76 bpm)
  • Adagietto — rather slow (70–80 bpm)
  • Andante moderato — a bit slower than andante
  • Andante — at a walking pace (76–108 bpm)
  • Andantino – slightly faster than andante
  • Moderato — moderately (108–120 bpm)
  • Allegretto — moderately fast (but less so than allegro)
  • Allegro moderato — moderately quick (112–124 bpm)
  • Allegro — fast, quickly and bright (120–168 bpm)
  • Vivace — lively and fast (≈140 bpm) (quicker than allegro)
  • Vivacissimo — very fast and lively
  • Allegrissimo — very fast
  • Presto — very fast (168–200 bpm)
  • Prestissimo — extremely fast (more than 200bpm)

Additional Terms:

  • A piacere — the performer may use his own discretion with regard to tempo and rhythm; literally "at pleasure"[4]
  • 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), Tempo di marcia (speed of a march))
  • Tempo giusto — at a consistent speed, at the 'right' speed, in strict tempo
  • Tempo semplice — simple, regular speed, plainly

Terms for change in tempo

Composers may use expressive marks to adjust the tempo:

  • Accelerando — speeding up (abbreviation: accel.)
  • Allargando — growing broader; decreasing tempo, usually near the end of a piece
  • Calando — going slower (and usually also softer)
  • Doppio movimento — double speed
  • Lentando — gradual slowing and softer
  • Meno mosso — less movement or slower
  • Mosso — movement, more lively, or quicker, much like più mosso, but not as extreme
  • Più mosso — more movement or faster
  • Precipitando — hurrying, going faster/forward
  • Rallentando — gradual slowing down (abbreviation: rall.)
  • Ritardando — less gradual slowing down (more sudden decrease in tempo than rallentando; abbreviation: rit. or more specifically, ritard.)
  • Ritenuto — slightly slower; 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 a character change instead.)
  • Rubato — free adjustment of tempo for expressive purposes
  • Stretto — in faster tempo, often near the conclusion of a section. (Note that in fugal 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")

 
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