What is adagio in music?

Discover what adagio means and how it’s used on musical scores.

What is adagio in music?
Published: June 29, 2022 at 3:18 pm

Adagio is the Italian word for ‘slowly’. It is written on musical scores to indicate the piece should be played at a slow, leisurely tempo. The speed at which a piece of music is played can have a huge impact on the overall feel or mood of the music, so composers need to take the tempo into consideration when relaying how they want their piece to be performed.

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How slow is adagio?

Tempo is measured in beats per minute (BPM), with adagio having around 66-76 BPM (though some pieces labelled as adagio may be performed with slightly more or slightly fewer BPM).

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Examples of adagio music

The first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is a famous example of an adagio tempo, but perhaps one of the best-known adagio pieces of classical music is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The latter’s slow tempo combined with its minor key creates a melancholy feel throughout the piece – it was even played at Albert Einstein’s funeral. Barber’s 20th-century classic would have a completely different feel if it had been composed with a faster tempo in mind.

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