Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 19 October 2019

Tempo(i) (It.: ‘time’; Fr. mouvement; Ger. Zeitmass)locked

  • Justin London


(It.: ‘time’; Fr. mouvement; Ger. Zeitmass)

Literally, the ‘time’ of a musical composition, but more commonly used to describe musical speed or pacing. Tempo may be indicated in a variety of ways. Most familiar are metronomic designations that link a particular durational unit (usually the beat unit of the notated metre) with a particular duration in clock time (e.g. crotchet = 80 beats/minute). Also familiar are conventionalized descriptions of speed and gestural character – andante, allegro, langsam etc; (see Tempo and expression marks). There are also looser associations between metric notations and tempo, a vestige of earlier mensural practice, where, for example, 3/2 is sign of relatively slow tempo, 3/4 of moderate tempo and 3/8 of relatively quick tempo. Similarly, we retain a sense of the distinction between the half-circle 𝄴 (common time) and the crossed half-circle 𝄵 (alla breve), with the latter theoretically twice as fast (see Alla breve, Notation, and ...

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.