Tempo in music Understanding the technical Italian terms

In modern popular music we describe the speed or TEMPO of a piece of music in BEATS PER MINUTE (abbreviated to BPM.)

In classical music we describe tempo using a collection of Italian terms such as ALLEGRO or LARGO

This lesson is designed to help you understand and learn these Italian terms. There is a an activity sheet to accompany this lesson which can be downloaded from here and also a link to a Kahoot! quiz to see how much you can remember.


Grave - very slow and solemn: up to 40 BPM

Largo - very slow: 40 - 60 BPM

Adagio - slow and stately: 66 - 76 BPM

This is an 'ADAGIO' - Barber's 'Adagio for Strings'


Andante - at a walking pace: 76 - 108 BPM

Moderato - at a moderate speed: 108 - 120 BPM

Allegretto - quite fast: 120 - 132 BPM

Here is a piece marked 'Moderato' by Rachmaninov


Allegro - fast and bright: 120 - 168 BPM

Presto - very fast: 168 - 200 BPM

Prestissimo - extremely fast: over 208 BPM

Here is a piece at Allegro, Mozart's 'Symphony No. 40 in G Minor'


Ritardando/Rallentando - gradually slowing down

A tempo - return to the previous tempo

Fermata - a pause; note to be held longer than marked

Created By
Miles Nottage


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