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#1102284 - 06/24/08 11:57 AM Tempo
PhysicsTeacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 99
Loc: Texas
So how does one determine the correct tempo for a piece of music?

I am working in Faber APA1 and nowhere do I see where they put the tempo of a piece. Is it asking too much to put tempo=80 or tempo=120? Seems to me I have seen this on occasion. Instead I see subjective terms like "Moderately," "Moderately Slow," "Cheerfully," "With Spirit," "Moderate Rock Beat," "Moderately Fast, "Rather Slowly, Floating," "Moving Gently," "Proudly," "With Energy," "Lively," "Quickly, Spirited," etc.

I realize that some of these terms do not pertain to tempo but if I don't have the CDs or know from memory how a piece should sound, how is one to know the correct tempo? Surely, the creators of these pieces had a tempo in mind when they wrote them, why don't they just tell us what it should be?

Are there some generally accepted tempos for terms like "Moderately Slow," "Moderately," "Moderately Fast" etc? Or is it just something that comes with experience, listening to others, and our own interpretations? When I get good, I won't mind taking liberties with a piece, but right now I play a piece and then put on the CD and it is so far removed in tempo that I am thinking I don't know what I am doing.
Casio PX-320, Fabers' Adult Piano Adventures 1
"If you drive faster than I do, you are a maniac. If you drive slower than I do, you are are an idiot."

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#1102285 - 06/24/08 12:10 PM Re: Tempo
AnthonyB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/28/07
Posts: 661
Loc: Center City, MN
I'd say get used to not having metronome markings that actually display a number. I'm not sure they want you to be sticking on a metronome and playing along. I do agree it would be nice to figure out exactly the tempo to play at though. (I have the same issue with the book). Of course, it could be a bit of a ploy to get you to buy the CD or midi tracks to hear them at the tempo they like...

I will say that the book of Einaudi pieces that I bought also does not have metronome markings in it either.
Roland FP-7 / Pianoteq 4.5.1

#1102286 - 06/24/08 01:50 PM Re: Tempo
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
The problem is that tempo is, to some extent, a personal choice. The composer will generally give a word that indicates a range of tempi and let you pick one. Here are the most common ones:

* Prestissimo — extremely fast (200 - 208 bpm)
* Vivacissimamente — adverb of vivacissimo, "very quickly and lively"
* Vivacissimo — very fast and lively
* Presto — very fast (168 - 200 bpm)
* Allegrissimo — very fast
* Vivo — lively and fast
* Vivace — lively and fast (~140 bpm)
* Allegro — fast and bright or "march tempo" (120 - 168 bpm)
* Allegro moderato — moderately quick (112 - 124 bpm)
* Allegretto — moderately fast (but less so than allegro)
* Allegretto grazioso — moderately fast and with grace
* Moderato — moderately (108 - 120 bpm)
* Moderato con espressivo — moderately with expression
* Andantino — alternatively faster or slower than andante
* Andante — at a walking pace (76 - 108 bpm)
* Tranquillamente — adverb of tranquillo, "tranquilly"
* Tranquillo — tranquil
* Adagietto — rather slow (70 - 80 bpm)
* Adagio — slow and stately (literally, "at ease") (66 - 76 bpm)
* Grave — slow and solemn
* Larghetto — rather broadly (60 - 66 bpm)
* Largo — Very slow (40 - 60 bpm), like lento
* Lento — very slow (40 - 60 bpm)
* Largamente/Largo — "broadly", very slow (40 bpm and below)
* Larghissimo — very slow (20 bpm and below)

"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

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#1102287 - 06/24/08 02:17 PM Re: Tempo
albmus Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/04/08
Posts: 6
Loc: Indianapolis, IN
Truth is, there typically is no "one, exact tempo" for a piece of music. Many metronomes themselves have a range of beats-per-minute for Lento, Allegro, etc. Charles-Marie Widor wrote 2-3 editions of his own famed organ Toccata (from 5th Symphonie)and each had a different tempo marking!

So, how determine the correct tempo for a piece of music?

Hum the melody, away from the piano. Whatever speed the melody "hangs together", makes sense as a coherent phrase or groups of phrases, THAT is the tempo. That's a beginning starting point.

As you grow in your musicality, you will more fully realize that tempo is not the end at all, but only one of the means of interpretation, which indeed *is* the desired end of playing any piece of music. It is the story portrayed by the music that one must ultimately "out" from the printed page.

Goto Youtube and listen to "Fur Elise". Listen to Ivo Pogorelich play it: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LQTTFUtMSvQ
He portrays an extremely intimate portrait of a mans who is controlling his fluctuating moods of grief and euphora.

Then listen to Atsuko Seta, http://youtube.com/watch?v=4n5ZSqMU0Jw
She portrays each of the man's emotions, isolated from one another, and each very depthful in its own right.

Lastly, listen to Tylerxley, http://youtube.com/watch?v=2_r3oT9InSg&feature=related
What story does his rendition tell?

Notice that each has his own tempo. Each has his own style. And each tells his own version of the story.

What's your version of your music's story going to be?
Organist/Choirmaster; Piano Instructor since 1987
I believe that a teacher’s greatest gift is to empower the students to do what the teacher can do, eventually without the teacher.

#1102288 - 06/26/08 10:09 PM Re: Tempo
Dave123 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/24/08
Posts: 203
Loc: Canada
Originally posted by PhysicsTeacher:
So how does one determine the correct tempo for a piece of music?

I am working in Faber APA1 and nowhere do I see where they put the tempo of a piece. Is it asking too much to put tempo=80 or tempo=120? Seems to me I have seen this on occasion. Instead I see subjective terms like "Moderately," "Moderately Slow," "Cheerfully," "With Spirit," "Moderate Rock Beat," "Moderately Fast, "Rather Slowly, Floating," "Moving Gently," "Proudly," "With Energy," "Lively," "Quickly, Spirited," etc.

I too would like to narrow some of the meanings such as happily, joyfully, etc I agree very subjective and somewhat ambiguous, when one is not familiar with the piece.

#1102289 - 06/27/08 01:03 PM Re: Tempo
SantaFe_Player Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 607
I would like to differ with the comment about not wanting you to play along at a metronome pace, though. Keeping in mind that ultimately the tempo will be somewhere in a range (and may be a bit flexible if the piece lends itself to some rubato), for practicing you definitely SHOULD be sticking with the metronome at both slow and fast tempos. Mostly slow but for pieces that are supposed to be performed presto/vivace, you'll have to metronome them up to performance speed eventually and probably faster, so they will seem easy when backed off to proper approximate tempo.

As for the subjective/ambiguous nature of these markings, that's par for the course. Music is, in the end, an art, and there are variations in interpretation for communicating a piece to a listener. Such things as "happily" are as much about the style/attitude of the playing as they are about the tempo per se. It's a language - and the ability to communicate the mood or spirit of a piece surpasses the mere tempo or concise dynamic guidelines. If we were to quantize all the interpretation guidelines in pieces, such as exact metronome markings for tempos, then we'd be getting our fortissimos and mezzo-pianos in terms of decibels \:\)


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