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Glossary of Tempo Markings used in Classical Music

In classical music the most common tempo markings are in Italian, though sometimes French or German are also used.

 

Tempo Markings - Italian

Definition

Beats per minute (bpm)

grave

very slow and solemn

40 bpm or slower
(a 1950 metronome suggests 44 bpm)

larghissimo

extremely slow

40 bpm or slower (some sources suggest 20bpm or slower)

lentissimo

extremely slow, but not as slow as larghissimo

 

adagissimo

extremely slow, but slower than largo

 

largo

broad, very slow and dignified

42-66 bpm (some sources suggest 40-60bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 40 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 46 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 50 bpm)

larghetto

less slow than largo

60-66 bpm
(a 1950 metronome suggests 50 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 60 bpm)

largamente

broadly

some sources suggest 10bpm

adagio

slow, but not as slow as largo

58-97 bpm (some sources suggest 66-76 bpm while others suggest 48-66 bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 60 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 54 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 70 bpm)

adagietto

slow, but less slow than adagio

70-80 bpm

lento

slow

52-108 bpm (some sources suggest 40-60)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 52 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 52 bpm)

lentamente

slowly

 

andantino

a little slower than andante but sometimes a little faster than adagio

(a 1950 metronome suggests 66 bpm)

andante

moving along - walking pace

56-88 bpm (some sources suggest 76-108 bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 69 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 80-100 bpm)

con moto

with movement, or a certain quickness

 

moderato

moderate speed

66-126 bpm (some sources suggest 108-120 or some 120-168 bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 84 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 80 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 110 bpm)

allegretto

pretty lively

(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 100 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 100 bpm)

vivace

quick and lively

~140 bpm
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 144 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 126 bpm)

allegro

quick, lively and bright

84-144 bpm (some sources suggest 120-168bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 120 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 116 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 120-160 bpm)

allegramente

quicker

 

presto

very quick

100-152 bpm (some sources suggest 168-208 bpm)
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 160 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 144 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 180 bpm)

allegrissimo

very quick, between presto and vivacissimo

 

vivacissimo

very quick, faster than vivace

 

prestissimo

very quick - as quickly as possible

more than 200bpm
(a nineteenth-century Maezel metronome suggests 184-240 bpm)
(a 1950 metronome suggests 184 bpm)
(a modern electronic metronome suggests 200 bpm)

rapido

rapidly

 

veloce

with velocity, speedily

 


Italian Tempo Markings - listed alphabetically

Usually each movement or a piece will have one or two tempo markings which may also be accompanied by modifiers and mood markings.

  • Adagietto — rather slow
  • Adagio — slow and stately (literally, "at ease")
  • Adagissimo — very, very slow
  • Agitato —  hurried, restless
  • Allegramente — quicker
  • Allegretto grazioso — moderately fast and gracefully
  • Allegretto — moderately fast (but less so than allegro)
  • Allegrissimo — very fast (though slower than presto)
  • Allegro — fast and bright or "march tempo"
  • Allegro appassionato — fast and passionately
  • Allegro ma non troppo — fast but not too much
  • Allegro moderato — moderately quick
  • Andante — at a walking pace
  • Andante Moderato — a bit faster than andante
  • Andantino – slightly faster than andante
  • Grave — slow and solemn
  • Largamente — very, very, very slow
  • Larghetto — rather broadly
  • Larghissimo — very, very slow
  • Largo — very slow, like lento
  • Lentamente — slowly
  • Lentissimo — extremely slow, but not as slow as larghissimo
  • Lento — very slow
  • Lento assai — even more slowly than lento
  • Lento Moderato — moderately slow
  • Moderato — moderately
  • Moderato espressivo — moderately with expression
  • Prestissimo — extremely fast
  • Presto — very fast
  • Rapido — rapidly
  • veloce — with velocity, speedily
  • Vivace — lively and fast
  • Vivacissimo — very quick, faster than vivace
  • Vivo — lively and fast

Note: In addition to the common allegretto, composers freely apply Italian diminutive and superlative suffixes to various tempo indications i.e.: adagietto, andantino, larghetto, and larghissimo. By adding the -issimo ending the word is amplified, by adding the -ino ending the word is diminished, and by adding the -etto ending the word is endeared.

Modifiers

  • accentato — accented; with emphasis
  • assai — very (e.g. Adagio assai)
  • cantabile — in singing style (lyrical and flowing)
  • con — with (e.g. Andante con moto, "at a walking pace with motion")
  • l'istesso tempo — at the same speed
  • ma non troppo — but not too much
  • marcato — marching tempo, marked with emphasis
  • meno — less, as in meno presto
  • molto — much, very (such as Molto allegro)
  • non tanto — not so much
  • non troppo — not too much (such as Allegro ma non troppo, "fast but not too much")
  • obbligato — required, indispensable
  • piω — more, as in piω allegro; used as a relative indication when the tempo changes
  • poco — a little (such as Poco allegro)
  • poco a poco — little by little
  • quasi — as if (such as Piω allegro quasi presto, "faster, as if presto")
  • semplice — simply
  • senza — without
  • sotto voce — in an undertone i.e. quietly
  • 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
  • tempo semplice — simple, regular speed, plainly

Mood markings

Mood markings are often used in conjunction with tempo indications:

  • accarezzιvole — expressive and caressing
  • acceso — ignited, on fire
  • affannato or affannoso — anguished
  • affettuoso or affettuosamente — with affect (that is, with feeling/emotion)
  • agitato — agitated, with implied quickness
  • animato — animated, lively
  • appassionato — to play passionately
  • brioso — vigorously (same as con brio)
  • bruscamente — brusquely
  • con affetto — with affect (that is, with emotion)
  • con amore — or (in Spanish and sometimes in Italian) con amor: with love, tenderly
  • con bravura — boldly
  • con brio — lively, literally, "with brilliance"
  • con calore — warmly
  • con dolore — with sadness
  • con fuoco — with fire
  • con gran espressione — with great expression
  • con molto espressione — with much expression
  • con moto — with motion
  • con slancio — with enthusiasm
  • dolce — sweetly
  • espressivo — expressively
  • furioso — to play in an angry or furious manner
  • giocoso — merrily, funny
  • lacrimoso — tearfully, sadly
  • lamentando or lamentoso — lamenting, mournfully
  • leggiero — to play lightly, or with light touch
  • lububre — lububrious, mournful
  • luminoso — luminously
  • maestoso — majestic or stately (which generally indicates a solemn, slow movement)
  • misterioso — mysterious
  • morendo — dying
  • pesante — heavily
  • sautillι/ saltando — jumpy, fast, and short
  • scherzando or, scherzoso — playfully
  • soave — smoothly, gently
  • sognando — dreamily
  • solenne — solemn
  • sonore — sonorous
  • sostenuto — sustained, sometimes with a slackening of tempo
  • spiccato — slow sautillι, with a bouncy manner
  • tranquillamente — adverb of tranquillo, "tranquilly"
  • tranquillo — tranquil
  • vivacissimamente — adverb of vivacissimo, "very quickly and lively"
  • vivacissimo — very fast and lively


French Tempo Markings

Common tempo markings in French are:
  • Au mouvement — play the (first or main) tempo.
  • Grave — slowly and solemnly
  • Lent — slowly
  • Modιrι — at a moderate tempo
  • Moins — less, as in Moins vite (less fast)
  • Rapide — fast
  • Trθs — very, as in Trθs vif (very lively)
  • Vif — lively
  • Vite — fast


German Tempo Markings

Common German tempo markings are:

  • Langsam — slowly
  • Lebhaft — lively (mood)
  • Mδίig — moderately
  • Rasch — quickly
  • Schnell — fast
   
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