Tempo

Music Theory Resources

The tempo is the speed of the beat. A tempo may be designated with general terms such as "fast" or "slow," or it can be measured precisely in beats per minute (bpm). The second-hand of a clock ticks at 60bpm, which is a good reference point.

It is common to find tempo markings in Italian (very fast: presto, slow: lento) or another language such as French or German. Although some terms can be understood by consulting a standard bilingual dictionary, other terms are conventional rather than literal. For example, allegro literally means 'happy' or 'cheerful' in Italian, but in music allegro means fast.

Tempo Markings

Italian Phrase Description BPM
Larghissimo solemn (very, very slow) < 24
Grave solemn (very, very slow) 25-40
Largo broad (very slow) 40-60
Lento broad (slowly) 45-60
Larghetto rather broadly 60–66
Adagio slow and stately 66–76
Adagietto slower than andante 72–76
Andante walking pace 76–108
Andantino slightly faster than Andante 80–108
Marcia moderato moderately (march) 83–85
Andante moderato between andante and moderato 92–112
moderato moderate 108-120
Allegretto moderately fast 112–120
Allegretto moderato close to but not quite allegro 116–120
Allegro fast 120-168
Vivace lively 168-176
Vivacissimo very fast and lively 172–176
Allegrissimo or Allegro vivace very fast 172–176
Presto very, very fast 168–200
Prestissimo even faster than Presto > 200