Tempo (music)

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The tempo ( Italian “time”, “time measure”; plural: tempi / 't ɛ mpi /; from Latin tempus ), also time measure , indicates in music how fast a piece is to be played, so it determines the absolute duration of the Note values. Since the note values ​​in today's musical notation only represent relative rhythmic value relationships, a tempo designation is also required to determine their duration. The predominantly Italian terms used for this since the 17th century, however, allow the executor a wide scope. That is why a metronome is often added to specify the tempo .

Many tempo designations are also expressive designations, so they also provide information about the intended character of a piece of music.

The actual tempo impression of a piece of music, however, is a phenomenon that goes beyond the mere number of beats per unit of time and is partly determined by other musical and extra-musical parameters, in particular by the occurring rhythms , the density of the musical composition , but also by the given space and the form of the day Musicians and listeners.

Classic tempo markings

Originally, the tempo was determined by feeling, individual musical traditions had special tempo words with which the tempo could be communicated by means of speaking time. Haydn and Mozart, for example, had a fine-grained system of over 300 tempo modules. Tempo designations in the form of adjectives written in the notes appeared in Western art music in the 17th century. Since Italy was for a long time the musical innovation center of Europe, Italian-language tempo and expression designations were established that are still used in music around the world today. However, in England and especially in France, terms in the respective national language were preferred. It was not until the 19th century - the age of pronounced national styles - that some German composers such as Schubert , Schumann , Brahms and Mahler also used German names in addition to Italian . But Beethoven also used German playing instructions, e.g. B. in his piano sonatas op.90 and op.101.

(arranged roughly in the sense of increasing speed)

Italian name meaning
Slow tempos
Larghissimo very broad
Grave heavy
largo wide, slowly
Larghetto a bit wide (faster than Largo)
Lento slowly
adagio slow, calm
Adagietto pretty calm, pretty slow
Medium tempos
Andante walking, striding
Andantino a little faster than Andante
Moderato moderate (agitated)
Allegretto slightly slower than Allegro
Fast tempos
Allegro fast, originally lively, happy
Vivace, vivo lively, alive
Vivacissimo very lively, very lively
Presto very quickly, quickly
Prestissimo extremely fast

Complementary additives

By adding adjectives or something else, the tempo indication can be extended to the performance designation, for example (alphabetical list without claim to completeness):

  • assai = pretty, very
  • amoroso = lovely, loving, with passion, with love, amorous
  • cantabile = singing
  • comodo = leisurely
  • con brio = with verve (often translated as "with fire")
  • con dolore = with pain
  • con espressione = with expression
  • con fuoco = with fire
  • con moto = with movement
  • con spirito / spiritoso = animated, fiery
  • espressivo = expressive
  • giocoso = joyful, playful
  • giusto = appropriate
  • grazioso = graceful, with grace
  • impensierito = thoughtful
  • lesto = nimble, nimble
  • lugubre = sad, plaintive
  • maestoso = majestic
  • ma non tanto = but not very much
  • ma non troppo = but not too much, but not too much
  • marcato = distinctive
  • meno = less
  • meno mosso = less moved
  • moderato = moderate
  • molto = much, very much
  • morendo = dying
  • mosso = moved
  • non tanto = not very much
  • non troppo = not too much
  • più = more
  • poco = something, a little
  • poco a poco = gradually
  • quasi = as it were
  • risoluto = determined, gripping
  • scherzando = cheerful
  • sostenuto = emphatic, held, carried, reserved, weighty
  • subito = suddenly
  • teneramente = tender, tender
  • tempo giusto = in the appropriate (usual) time
  • tranquillo = calm
  • un poco = a little

Tempo changes

Expression meaning
Terms of acceleration
accelerando (accel.) accelerating
affrettando hurrying
incalzando driving
più mosso more moving
poco più a bit more
stringendo (string.) hurrying, pushing forward
Descriptions of the slowdown
allargando getting wider (and louder)
calando getting slower and quieter
largando see allargando: slower, widening
meno mosso less moved
più lento slower
poco meno slightly less
rallentando (rall.) widening, slowing down
ritardando (rit.) slowing down
pension hesitant
ritenuto reluctant
slentando dampening
strascinando dragging, dragged
Designations for free pace
a bene placito to please
a capriccio following the whim
a piacere (also: a piacimento) as you please; free at the pace
a suo arbitrio / commodo / placito as you see fit / convenience / discretion
ad libitum of your choice
colla parte following a free voice
rubato free, not in strict time
senza misura without meter
senza tempo without a (fixed) tempo
suivez follow! (namely a free performing solo part)
Terms for returning to the previously given tempo
a battuta on beat
a tempo in the original timeframe
al rigore di tempo strictly at the pace
misurato Re-entry of strict timing
tempo primo / tempo I resume the starting tempo
further tempo markings
alla breve half (instead of two beats only one)
doppio movimento twice as fast
doppio più lento half as fast

Metronome marks

To fix the tempi more precisely, Johann Nepomuk Mälzel invented the metronome around 1815 , with which the basic beat could be made audible and visible. The metronome number (abbreviated to M. M. = Mälzel's metronome) indicates how many beats per minute the basic pulse has.

The medical professor Michaele de Savonarola found a relationship between pulse or pulse rate and music (more precisely the tempo degrees of the mensural music of that time) as early as 1450 .

Before that, Frédéric Thiémé and C. Mason published precise tempo indications based on the Italian names using a pendulum, while Johann Joachim Quantz had given metric indications based on a pulse rate of 80 beats per minute in 1752.

As a rule, tempo labels are given on the scale of metronomes that are assigned to a certain range. The assignment is only roughly placed, but not clearly defined by specific values. The ranges of values ​​fluctuate considerably, depending on the age, the culture and the make. Even the graduation of the tempo differs from one another, as the position of the “Larghetto” shows. All areas are therefore to be seen more as references than as binding, rigid rules.

The table adopts the values ​​given on the scales of the metronomes shown from left to right.

Nikko, 21st century
Taktell, 20th century
Metronome Maëlzel, 19th century
21st century, Japanese 20th century, German (MM) 19th century, French
Grave 040-44
largo 044-48 largo 040-60 largo 042-70
Lento 048-54
adagio 054-58
Larghetto 058-63 Larghetto 060-66
Adagietto 063-69 adagio 066-76
Andante 069-76 Larghetto 070-98
Andantino 076-84 Andante 076-108
Maestoso 084-92
Moderato 092-104 adagio 098-124
Allegretto 104-116 Moderato 108-120
Animato 116-126
Allegro 126-138 Allegro 120-168 Andante 124-152
Assai 138-152
Vivace 152-176 Presto 168-200 Allegro 152-180
Presto 176-200 Presto 180-208
Prestissimo ≥ 208 Prestissimo 200-208

Beats per minute

Modern pop titles , but also in the field of electronic music, are defined by Bpm (= beats per minute ). This information makes it easier for producers to create remixes , for DJs to mix several songs together and for rappers to play another soundtrack to the current beat .

Tempo interpretation and performance practice

See also Historical Performance Practice: Tempi

"[Tempo is] the most necessary and hardest and the main thing in music."

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : in a letter dated October 24, 1777

Influence of the time signature

The tempo words on the scale of the Mälzel metronome - such as "Andante - walking 76-106" - are of no help in that they do not say which note value, which "beat" they refer to: "go" the eighth notes, the Quarter or half at this rate? and: what time signature is the piece in? An “Andante 3/8” is used in classical music z. B. faster than an "Andante 3/4" - and this is faster than an "Andante 4/4". It is the same with the time signatures 2/2, 2/4 and 2/8. An Allegro in the baroque C time is slower than one in the classical and modern C or 4/4 (“The large four-quarter marsupial is extremely difficult to move and perform, and because of its emphasis, it is particularly well suited to large church pieces, choirs and fugues”).

Influence of the type of piece of music

Chopin wrote waltzes and polonaises , both of which are in 3/4 time. For example, the tempo of the Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 2, is indicated as Allegro maestoso , and that of the Waltz, Op. 69, No. 1, by Lento . The combination of tempo and time signature would mean that the polonaise would have to go much faster than the waltz. But the opposite is the case: the polonaise is usually played more slowly than the waltz. This is because the standard basic tempo (tempo giusto) of a waltz is considerably faster than that of a polonaise. For example, a waltz can simply be placed over Tempo di valse , or over a minuet Tempo di minuetto , since the tempo is already sufficient, especially in musical forms that were originally intended as dance (such as the minuet, the waltz or the polonaise) the character of this piece. From this and many similar examples it can be seen that the type of piece in question plays a decisive role in the correct interpretation of the tempo mark.

Metronome markings by composers

While metronome indications of anonymous origin or from editors may at best be non-binding suggestions, the metronome numbers given by the composer himself have a much higher degree of commitment due to their authenticity, so that an interpreter who is concerned about being faithful to the work will generally adhere to them. However, cases are also conceivable in which the performance practice deviates from the information provided by the composer if these lead to unsatisfactory results or even arouse the suspicion that the effect intended by the composer is not correctly reproduced. There is hardly a pianist who plays Schumann 's children's scenes with the metronome markings he himself prescribed. Another notorious example is Beethoven's metronome for the first movement of his Hammerklavier Sonata ( Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg= 138). Almost all performers agree that this tempo is excessively fast and play significantly slower.

Use of the metronome in the Classical and Romantic eras

The classical music before Beethoven did not need a metronome. She used a tempo system from the "natural tempos of the time signature", the smallest note values ​​(a piece was about slower if it contained thirty-second notes than if it consisted mostly of sixteenths or even eighth notes) and as a third factor the Italian tempo words, who modified the first two entries. Despite his enthusiasm for the metronome that Johann Nepomuk Mälzel had finally made usable in practice, Beethoven only provided 25 of his 400 works with tempo indications according to the Mälzel scale. Brahms later renounced it entirely.

To the metric theory

The metric theory of Retze Talsma and his colleagues says that the metronome indications refer to an entire period of oscillation of the metronome pendulum, i.e. a full back and forth movement, which is why the previously assumed metronome indications must be halved ("rebirth of the classics") .

Mälzel, who was a pianist himself, writes in his Directions for using Maelzel's Metronome : “ […] it be well understood, that in this, as in every case, each single beat or tick forms a part of the intended time, and is to be counted as such, but not the two beats produced by the motion from one side to the other. ”In the translation of the Allgemeine Musikischen Zeitung :“ […] this is to be understood in such a way that in this, as in every other case, every single beat is to be regarded as a part of the intended measure of time and is to be counted as such; therefore not the two blows produced (by moving from one side to the other). "()

From the point of view of the proponents of the metric theory, see also the following quotations, a stroke does not mean the pendulum movement from one side to the other, but - even if not explicitly - the full back and forth movement.

Carl Czerny , a student of Beethoven and undoubtedly a competent user of the device, in his piano school op. 500 , On the use of Mälzel's metronome in the same sense: "You play every quarter note exactly after the audible beats of the metronome."

Gottfried Weber , who advocates self-construction of a thread pendulum and competes with Mälzel for the way to designate the tempo, wrote in the (Wiener) Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung on June 19, 1817: “Incidentally, the type of designation can never be misunderstood, if you only consistently remains true to the principle that every swing of the pendulum should always mean a clock part [...] "

The important musicologist Adolf Bernhard Marx in the article Chronometer of the Encyclopedia of the Entire Musical Sciences 1835: “The composer now pushes that lead weight to a greater or lesser degree of movement [...] and determines at the beginning of his piece of music that the quarters, or eighth notes, or half notes, etc., should last as long in the same as a pendulum beat of the metronome. "

The French watchmaker Gabory writes in his Manuel utile et curieux sur la mesure du temps : “  On appelle vibration, le chemin que fait ce corps pesant [suspendu à un fil] pour se porter d'un côté à l'autre de sa perpendiculaire; type que l'aller & le venir font deux vibrations.  »(German:“ Vibration is the name of the path that this heavy body travels [on a thread pendulum] to move from one side of its vertical to the other; so that the back and forth movement makes up two vibrations . ")

It should be noted that Gabory comments on the thread pendulum here, so that conclusions cannot necessarily be drawn about the metronome.

See also


Source texts (chronological):

Secondary literature (chronological):

  • Curt Sachs: Rhythm and Tempo. A Study in Music History. New York 1953.
  • Eva and Paul Badura-Skoda: Mozart interpretation. Vienna 1957.
  • Irmgard Herrmann-Bengen: tempo designations. Origin. Change in the 17th and 18th centuries (= Munich publications on music history. Volume 1). Tutzing 1959.
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , pp. 55–57 ( Vom Tempo ).
  • Robert Donington: A Performer's Guide to Baroque Music. London 1978, ISBN 0-571-09797-9 .
  • Robert Donington: The Interpretation of Early Music. New version. London 1979, ISBN 0-571-04789-0 .
  • Helmuth Perl: Rhythmic phrasing in the music of the 18th century. A contribution to performance practice. Wilhelmshaven 1984.
  • Wolfgang Auhagen: Chronometric tempo indications in the 18th and 19th centuries. In: Archives for Musicology . Vol. 44, No. 1, 1987, pp. 40-57.
  • Reinhard Platzek: On the problem of time and the determination of time in musical tempo. Amsterdam / Atlanta, GA 1989 (= Elementa - writings on philosophy and its problem history. Volume 52).
  • Eva and Paul Badura-Skoda : Bach interpretation. The piano works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Laaber 1990, ISBN 3-89007-141-4 .
  • Klaus Michael Miehling : The tempo in baroque and pre-classical music. Wilhelmshaven 1993-2003, ISBN 3-7959-0590-7 .
  • Brockhaus Riemann music lexicon. 1995, Series Music - Atlantis / Schott.
  • Peter Reidemeister: Historical performance practice. Darmstadt 1996, ISBN 3-534-01797-8 .
  • Irmgard Bengen, Klaus-Ernst Behne, Wolf Frobenius:  Tempo. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Second edition, factual part, Volume 9 (Sydney - Cyprus). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 1998, ISBN 3-7618-1128-4 , Sp. 443-470 ( online edition , subscription required for full access)
  • Helmut Breidenstein: Mozart's tempo system. A manual for professional practice. 2nd Edition. Tectum, Marburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8288-3636-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Helmut Breidenstein: Mozart's Tempo System: Metronome . mozarttempi.net
  2. Also slower in the 18th and 19th centuries. See Davis Fallows: Andantino. In: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
  3. Werner Friedrich Kümmel: The pulse and the problem of time measurement in the history of medicine. Medizinhistorisches Journal, Volume 9, 1974, pp. 1–22, here p. 3 f.
  4. Michaelis Savonarola: De febribus, de pulsibus, de urinis […]. Venice 1498, sheet 80.
  5. ^ Werner Friedrich Kümmel: On the tempo in the Italian mensural music of the 15th century. In: Acta Musicologica. Volume 42, 1970, pp. 150-164.
  6. Frederic Thieme: amendment théorie sur les differens mouvements des airs fondée sur la pratique de la musique modern, avec le projet d'un nouveau chronomètre. Paris 1801; Reprinted by Minkoff, Genève 1972.
  7. ^ C. Mason: Rules on the times, meters, phrases accent of composition. London, around 1806.
  8. ^ Friedrich Gersmann: Classical Tempo for Classical Music. Part 2. In: Guitar & Lute. 7, 1985, No. 5, pp. 61-66; here: pp. 64–66.
  9. ^ Friedrich Gersmann: Classical Tempo for Classical Music. Part 3. In: Guitar & Lute. 8, 1986, No. 3, pp. 14-18; here: p. 15.
  10. ^ Johann Philipp Kirnberger : The art of the pure sentence in music. Part 2, 1776, p. 122
  11. see on this topic, however, a different opinion in a telephone interview with Dr. Michael Struck on Schumann's metronome (PDF; 510 kB).
  12. On Talsma's “metrical theory” in detail Wolfgang Auhagen: Chronometric tempo indications in the 18th and 19th centuries and Peter Reidemeister: Historische Aufführungpraxis , pp. 114–135.
  13. ^ Fr [z] S [ales] Kandler: Review of the chronometer and Mr. Mälzel's newest chronometer factory in London. Instructions on the use of Mälzel's metronome . In: General musical newspaper . 1817, col. 33–36, 41–43, 49–52, 57–58 , here Col. 51 ( Digalisat in the Google book search [accessed on November 3, 2018]).
  14. Gottfried Weber: About a chronometric tempo designation, which makes the Mälzel'schen metronome, like any other chronometer machine, dispensable. In: [Wiener] Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung , No. 25, Sp. 204–209 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ).
  15. Tp 130427446
  16. Gabory : Manuel utile et curieux sur la mesure du temps. Parisot, Angers 1770, OCLC 457486989 , p. 113.