What we have learnt in the previous post was that time signature indicates the amount and value of the beats (crotchet, minim etc.) inside a bar in a piece of music. Time signature does not give us any information about the speed of the beats movement which is the tempo. The speed of the regular beat in a composition is called tempo.

Usually tempo can be denoted in a piece of music in two different ways.

  • By approximate Italian terms which are shown in the picture below
  • By precise metronome mark

Metronome is a device invented by Johann Maelzel in 1815 which produces regular, metric ticks like a clock and can be adjusted to tick at any speed.

At the start of the music the metronome marking includes a note value = number of beats per minute (Q = 60), this means that there are 60 crotchet beats per minute. Sometime the abbreviation M.M. (Maelzelā€™s Metronome) is added before the number.

Tempo often changes in a piece of music. These changes usually are shown by terms such as ritardando (gradually slow down), accelerando (gradually speed up), and a tempo (return to the original speed). There are also changes which are not usually indicated in the piece of the music and performers usually make them for expressive purposes.

tempo Blog|Mezzo piano lessons