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