Interrelated Dimensions of Music: Tempo
Tempo is the musical term for how fast or slow the music goes.
As with many other musical terms, Italian words are used to describe the different tempos of music. Here are some common tempos:
Adagio - a slow tempo (other words for slow are lento and largo)
Andante - at a walking pace
Moderato - a medium tempo
Allegro - a quick and lively tempo (another common word for fast is vivace)
The tempo is usually written above the first bar on a piece of music and is often alongside a metronome mark which is described using beats per minute or BPM.
BPM = Meats Per Minute
Writing the term for the tempo and the BPM gives the musician reading the music a very clear idea of how it should be played.
Composers may want to change the tempo during a piece of music. There are five main terms which cover changes of tempo that can be written on sheet music:
Rallentando - when music is slowed down
Ritardando - slowing down, holding back
Accelerando - getting gradually faster
A Tempo - return to the original tempo after rallentando, ritardando or accelerando
Rubato - changing tempo and rhythms for expressive effect
Pay attention when playing your music at home, can you spot any tempo markings in your own music?