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  Understanding Music Notation Lesson 12 – Tempo  
Christopher Schlegel Tutorial 018 - Learning To Read Music (Page 12 of 17)
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Christopher Schlegel



Understanding Music Notation Lesson 12 – Tempo

Rhythmic notation shows when to play those notes & for how long. This is the most essential information. But it only shows how fast or slow to play the notes relative to each other. It doesn’t tell us how fast or slow to play the piece overall.

That is what tempo is for. Tempo is usually indicated in either of two ways.

1. General indication – such as “slowly” or “quickly”. Classical pieces frequently use Italian words like “adagio” or “allegro” – which mean respectively “slowly” or “quickly”. Often some “quality” description will be given with the tempo indication.
2. A much more accurate and objective manner of specifying tempo is in Beats Per Minute (BPM). Literally it means how many beats occur per minute of time that passes. This is easily quantified by using a metronome – an absolutely essential tool every musician should have for practicing.

So, if you are playing quarter notes in a piece that is indicated to be played at 60 beats per minute (hereafter BPM), you will play one note every second. If you are playing eighth notes at 60 BPM you will play two notes every second – one on the second and one evenly spaced in between every second.

Here is a list of common tempo terms with their typical Beats Per Minute equivalents.

  • Largo – 40 BPM- 60 BPM
  • Larghetto - 61-66 BPM - a little faster than largo
  • Adagio - 67-76 BPM - slowly
  • Andante - 77-108 BPM - a little faster than adagio (walking pace)
  • Moderato – 109-120 BPM – moderately
  • Allegro – 121-176 BPM - quickly or briskly
  • Presto – 177-210 BPM - fast
  • Prestissimo – 211-250 - very fast

      Understanding Music Notation Lesson 12 – Tempo  
    Christopher Schlegel Tutorial 018 - Learning To Read Music (Page 12 of 17)
    Back
    Next






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