Lento music definition

Discover all you need to know about the musical term lento.

Published: June 30, 2022 at 3:40 pm

You may have seen the word lento written at the start of a score and wondered what it means – it’s the term used in music to indicate a piece should be played with a very slow tempo (slower even than adagio).

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How slow is lento?

Tempos are measured in beats per minute (BPM) and lento usually falls between 40-60 BPM on a metronome. This is a similar tempo range to largo, however largo also indicates the music should be played broadly.

Why is it called lento?

Italian terms have become mainstream in classical music, with lento (translating as ‘slow’ or ‘sluggish’) being a prime example. This is because it was Italian composers who first formally started to write such terms on their scores, and the terms soon caught on throughout the Western world.

Examples of lento music

The third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No 16 is just one example of a Lento tempo. In fact, this piece’s score is typically marked ‘lento assai’, meaning ‘very slowly’.

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