Multilingual Tempo Commands & BPM

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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
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Your Citation
Kraemer, Brandy. "Multilingual Tempo Commands & BPM." ThoughtCo, Jul. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/multilingual-tempo-commands-and-bpm-2701376. Kraemer, Brandy. (2017, July 1). Multilingual Tempo Commands & BPM. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/multilingual-tempo-commands-and-bpm-2701376 Kraemer, Brandy. "Multilingual Tempo Commands & BPM." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/multilingual-tempo-commands-and-bpm-2701376 (accessed October 23, 2017).