Multilingual Tempo Commands & BPM

metronome and music notes
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Tempo, or the speed of a song, is marked at the beginning of notation and may be written using different methods. For example, you will often see numbers next to a small music note (♩ = 70) that indicate an exact BPM (beats per minute); or, you'll find it expressed in word form.

These words tend to be Italian, and they correspond to a BPM. This list will show you the most common Italian tempo commands organized by their speed, and give you other common synonyms you are likely to encounter in piano music.

 Italian  BPM  French  German
 larghissimo  < 40  extrêmement large  sehr breit
 solenne / grave  ≈ 40  grave  schwer
 largo  42 - 66  large / largement  breit
 lentissimo  < 48  très lent  sehr langsam
 adagissimo  ≈ 52  lentement modéré  sehr ruhig
 lento  52 - 68  lent  langsam
 larghetto  56 - 64  assez large  etwas breit
 adagio  60 - 80 (66-76)*  à l'aise  gemächlich
 adagietto  68 - 76  assez vite  ziemlich ruhig
 tranquillo  ≈ 80  tranquil  ruhig
 andante  80 - 100 (76-108)*  allant  gehend
 moderato  88 - 112  modéré  mässig
 allegretto  100 - 128  assez vite  ein wenig schnell
 allegro  112 - 160  allègre / vite  fröhlich / lustig
 vivace  ≈ 140  vif  lebhaft
 presto  140 - 200 (168-208)*  rapide  sehr schnell
 allegrissimo  ≈ 168  très vite  geschwind
 vivacissimo  ≈ 200  extrêmement vif  sehr rasch
 prestissimo  188 - 220  très rapide  äusserst schnell

* traditional metronome BPM

Speed-Changing Tempo Commands

  Italian  Meaning  French  German
 accelerando  gradual speed-up  accélérez  beschleunigend
 ritardando  gradual slow-down  retardez  verzögernd
 allargando  widen & slow the beats  en élargissant  verbreiternd
 rallentando  gradual, rolling stop  ralentissez  verlangsamend
 tempo primo  back to original tempo  au mouvement  Hauptzeitmass

Other Common Tempo Commands

 Italian  Meaning  French  German
 tempo giusto  keep strict tempo  mouvement exact  im angemessenen Zeitmass
 a piacere  ad lib.; rhythm at player's will  à volonté  nach Gefallen
 alla breve  in cut-time  à la blanche  Takt in Halben Noten