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Encyclopedia > Allegro (music)

In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for "time") is the speed or pace of a given piece. Below is a list of terms used in musical terminology which are likely to occur on printed or sheet music. ... 8:17 am, August 6, 1945, Japanese time. ... Speed (symbol: v) is the rate of motion, or equivalently the rate of change of position, expressed as distance d moved per unit of time t. ... A musical piece is a musical work that has been created. ...

Contents


Measuring tempo

The tempo of a piece will typically be written at the start of a piece of music, and is usually indicated in beats per minute (BPM). This means that a particular note value (for example, a quarter note or crotchet) is specified as the beat, and the marking indicates that a certain number of these beats must be played per minute. Beats per minute (bpm) is a unit typically used as either a measure of tempo in music, or a measure of ones heart rate. ... Parts of a note In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the color or shape of the note head, the presence or absence of a stem, and the presence or absence of flags. ... In music, a quarter note (American) or crotchet is a note played for one-quarter the duration of a whole note, hence the name. ... See also the beat disambiguation page. ...


Mathematical tempo markings of this kind became increasingly popular during the first half of the 19th century, after the metronome had been invented, although early metronomes were somewhat unreliable; Beethoven's metronome markings, in particular, are notoriously unreliable. MIDI files today also use the BPM system to denote tempo. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... A mechanical wind-up metronome in motion A metronome is a device that produces a strict rhythm. ... Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized December 17, 1770 – March 26, 1827) was a German composer of Classical music, the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras. ... A standard MIDI File or SMF consists of MIDI (often General MIDI) event sequences as defined by MIDI Manufacturers Association in the MIDI specification. ...


Some 20th century composers (such as Bela Bartok and John Cage) would alternatively give the total execution time of a piece, from which the proper tempo can be roughly derived. B la Bart k (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a composer, pianist and collector of East European folk music. ... John Cage John Milton Cage (September 5, 1912–August 12, 1992) was an American experimental music composer and writer. ...


Musical vocabulary for tempo

Whether a music piece has a mathematical time indication or not, in classical music it is customary to describe the tempo of a piece by one or more words. Most of these words are Italian, a result of the fact that many of the most important composers of the 17th century were Italian, and this period was when tempo indications were used extensively for the first time. Classical music is music considered classical, as sophisticated and refined, in a regional tradition. ... A composer is a person who writes music. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ...


Before the metronome, words were the only way to describe the tempo of a composition. Yet after the metronome's invention, these words continued to be used, often additionally indicating the mood of the piece, thus blurring the traditional distinction between tempo and mood indicators. For example, "presto" and "allegro" both indicate a speedy execution ("presto" being faster), but "allegro" has more of a connotation of joy (seen its original meaning in Italian), while "presto" rather indicates speed as such (with possibly an additional connotation of virtuosity). (Presto did not acquire this connotation until the late 18th century.)


Additional Italian words also indicate tempo and mood. For example, the "agitato" in the Allegro agitato of the last movement of George Gershwin's piano concerto in F has both a tempo indication (undoubtedly faster than a usual "Allegro") and a mood indication ("agitated"). George Gershwin photograph by Edward Steichen in 1927. ... Concerto in F is a composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and orchestra which is closer in form to a traditional concerto than the earlier jazz-influenced Rhapsody in Blue. ...


Understood tempos

In some cases (quite often up to the end of the Baroque period), conventions governing musical composition were so strong that no tempo had to be indicated: e.g. the 1st movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 has no tempo or mood indication whatsoever. To provide movement names, publishers of recordings resort to ad hoc measures, for instance marking the Brandenburg movement "Allegro", "(Allegro)", "(Without indication)", and so on. Baroque music is Western classical music from the Baroque era, after the Renaissance music era and before the Classical music era proper. ... Johann Sebastian Bach, 1748 portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685 (O.S.) – July 28, 1750 (N.S.))[1] was a German composer and organist of the Baroque period, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. ... The six Brandenburg concertos (BWV 1046-1051) by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of instrumental works presented by Bach to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721, but probably composed earlier. ...


In Renaissance music most music was understood to flow at a tempo defined by the tactus, roughly the rate of the human heartbeat. Which note value corresponded to the tactus was indicated by the mensural time signature. Renaissance music is classical music written during the Renaissance period, approximately 1400 to 1600 CE. Defining the end of the period is easier than defining the beginning, since there were no revolutionary shifts in musical thinking at the beginning of the 15th century corresponding to the sudden development of the... The time signature (also known as meter signature) is a notational device used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each bar and which note value (minim, crotchet, quaver, and so on) constitutes one beat. ...


Often a particular musical form or genre implies its own tempo, so no further explanation is placed in the score. Thus musicians expect a minuet to be performed as a fairly stately tempo, slower than a Viennese waltz; a Perpetuum Mobile to be quite fast, and so on. The association of tempo with genre means that genres can be used to imply tempos; thus Ludwig van Beethoven wrote "In tempo d'un Menuetto" over the first movement of his Piano Sonata Op. 54, although that movement is not a minuet. Popular music charts use terms such as "bossa nova", "ballad", and "latin rock" in much the same way. The term musical form is used in two related ways: a generic type of composition such as the symphony or concerto the structure of a particular piece, how its parts are put together to make the whole; this too can be generic, such as binary form or sonata form Musical... Musical genres are categories which contain music which share a certain style or which have certain elements in common. ... This article is about the dance. ... Viennese Waltz is the name of a ballroom dance. ... This article is about a musical term. ... Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized December 17, 1770; died March 26, 1827) was a German composer of classical music, who predominantly lived in Vienna, Austria. ... Popular music is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and mostly distributed commercially. ...


Italian tempo markings

See also Italian musical terms. A great many musical terms are in Italian. ...


Basic tempo markings

The most common tempo markings in Italian are:

  • Largo - slowly and broadly
  • Adagio - slowly
  • Lento - "slow" but usually only moderately so
  • Andante - at a walking pace
  • Moderato - at a moderate tempo
  • Allegretto - "a little allegro", understood to be not quite as fast as allegro
  • Allegro - quickly
  • Presto - fast

Common Qualifiers

  • non troppo - not too much; e.g. Allegro non troppo (or Allegro ma non troppo) means "Fast, but not too fast."
  • molto - very, as in Allegro molto
  • poco - slightly, as in Poco Adagio
  • Various diminutive suffixes in Italian have been used, in addition to Allegretto: Andantino, Larghetto, Adagietto, as well as superlatives such as Larghissimo, Prestissimo.

A diminutive is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object named, intimacy, or endearment. ... Suffix has meanings in linguistics and nomenclature. ... In grammar the superlative of an adjective or adverb indicates that an entity transcends at least two other entities in some way. ...

Mood markings with a tempo connotation

Some markings that primarily mark a mood (or character) also have a tempo connotation: A persons mood is a measurable affective state, which can consist of a combination of emotions. ...

  • Vivace - lively (which generally indicates a rather fast movement)
  • Maestoso - majestic or stately (which is generally a solemn slow movement)

Vivace is Italian for lively. Vivace is used as an Italian musical term indicating a movement that is in a lively mood (and so usually in a fast tempo). ... Maestoso (Mie-eh-stoe-zoe) is Italian for majestic. ...

Terms for change in tempo

There is also a set of terms that are used to designate a change of tempo:

  • Accelerando - speeding up (abbreviation: accel.)
  • Rallentando - slowing down (abbreviation: rall.)
  • Ritardando - slowing down (abbreviation: rit.)
  • Ritenuto - slightly slower

These generally designate a gradual change in tempo; for immediate tempo shifts, composers normally just provide the designation for the new tempo. There is also:

  • A tempo - return to the previous tempo after change(s).

which also indicates an immediate, not a gradual, tempo change. Composers typically use these terms for tempo change even if they have written their initial tempo marking in some other language.


More complex and less precise (though vital in many composers' music) is:

  • Rubato - free adjustment of tempo for expressive purposes

Tempo markings in other languages

Although Italian has been the prevalent language for tempo markings throughout most of classical music history, many composers have written tempo indications in their own language.


French tempo markings

French baroque composers such as for example François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau used French tempo indications. Common tempo markings in French are: Baroque music is Western classical music from the Baroque era, after the Renaissance music era and before the Classical music era proper. ... François Couperin (born Paris November 10, 1668 – September 12, 1733 in Paris) was an esteemed French composer in the Baroque style. ... Jean-Philippe Rameau (September 25, 1683 - September 12, 1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. ...

  • Grave - slowly and solemnly
  • Lent - slowly
  • Modéré - at a moderate tempo
  • Vif - lively
  • Vite - fast

German tempo markings

Many composers have used German tempo markings. Typical German tempo markings are:

  • Langsam - slowly
  • Mäßig - moderately
  • Lebhaft - lively (mood)
  • Rasch - quickly
  • Schnell - fast

One of the first German composers to use tempo markings in his native language was Ludwig van Beethoven. The one using the most elaborate combined tempo and mood markings was probably Gustav Mahler (sometimes even mixing German with Italian tempo indications): e.g. 2nd movement of his 9th symphony: Im tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers, etwas täppisch und sehr derb, indicating a folk-dance-like movement, with some vulgarity in the execution. Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized December 17, 1770; died March 26, 1827) was a German composer of classical music, who predominantly lived in Vienna, Austria. ... Gustav Mahler Gustav Mahler (July 7, 1860–May 18, 1911) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor. ... In music, a movement is a large division of a larger composition or musical form. ... The Symphony No. ...


Tempo markings in English

English indications, for example quickly, have also been used, by Benjamin Britten, amongst many others. In jazz and popular music charts, terms like "fast", "laid back", "steady rock", "medium", "medium-up", "ballad", and similar style indications. The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh (November 22, 1913 – December 4, 1976) was a British composer and pianist. ... Jazz is a musical art form characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms, and improvisation. ... Popular music is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and mostly distributed commercially. ...


Rushing and dragging

When performers unintentionally speed up, they are said to rush. The similar term for unintentionally slowing down is drag. Both of these actions are undesirable, although dragging is usually worse, since it tends to suck the energy from a performance. Because of their negative connotation, neither rush nor drag (nor their equivalents in other languages) are often used as tempo indications in scores, Mahler being a notable exception: as part of a tempo indication he used schleppend ("dragging") in the first movement of his 1st symphony, for example. Gustav Mahler Gustav Mahler (July 7, 1860–May 18, 1911) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor. ... The Symphony No. ...


Can tempo terms be defined with the metronome?

Most musicians would agree that it is not possible to give Beats per minute (BPM) equivalents for these terms; the actual number of beats per minute in a piece marked allegro, for example, will depend on the music itself. A piece consisting mainly of minims (half notes) can be played very much quicker in terms of BPM than a piece consisting mainly of semi-quavers (sixteenth notes) but still be described with the same word. Beats per minute (bpm) is a unit typically used as either a measure of tempo in music, or a measure of ones heart rate. ... In music, a half note (American) or minim is a note played for one half the duration of a whole note, hence the name. ... Figure 1. ...


Metronome manufacturers, however, usually do assign BPM values to the traditional terms, but they are of very little use to any musicians other than rank beginners.


Tempo markings as movement names

Generally, composers (or music publishers) will name movements of classical compositions (and in some cases individual compositions) after their tempo (and/or mood) marking, as for instance in Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. In music, a movement is a large division of a larger composition or musical form. ... Samuel Barber, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944 Samuel Osborne Barber (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was a United States composer of classical music best known for his Adagio for Strings. ... Adagio for Strings is a piece of classical music for string orchestra by Samuel Barber. ...


Usage note: plural

The plural of tempo in Italian is tempi. Some writers employ this plural when writing in English. Others use the native English plural tempos. Standard dictionaries reflect both usages.


Unfortunately, neither plural can be used without offending the tastes of at least some readers: inevitably, tempos will strike some readers as incorrect, and tempi will strike other readers as pretentious. Careful writers will assess their context and choose accordingly.


External links

  • Research group specializing in rhythm, timing, and tempo, University of Amsterdam
  • Tempo indications in Mozart's music
Musical notation edit
Staff : Clef | Key signature | Time signature | Leger line | Barline
Notes : Note value | Dotted note | Accidental | Rest
Expression marks: Tempo | Dynamics | Articulation | 8va
Music notation is a system of writing for music. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and time. ... A clef (French for key) is a symbol used in musical notation that assigns notes to lines and spaces on the musical staff. ... In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be played sharp or flat unless otherwise noted with an accidental. ... The time signature (also known as meter signature) is a notational device used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each bar and which note value (minim, crotchet, quaver, and so on) constitutes one beat. ... Figure 1. ... In musical notation, a bar or measure is a segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration. ... Parts of a note In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the color or shape of the note head, the presence or absence of a stem, and the presence or absence of flags. ... In music, a dotted note is a note that is 1 1/2 times the main note of the same kind. ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note. ... A rest is an interval of silence in a piece of music, marked by a sign indicating the length of the pause. ... In music, dynamics refers to the volume or loudness of the sound or note, in particular to the range from soft (quiet) to loud. ... For the numerical computation software, see GNU Octave. ...

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