Tempo shouldn’t be confused with a piece’s time signature, which indicates how many beats are included in a bar, whereas tempo indicates how fast or slow those beats should be.
Tempos are measured in beats per minute (BPM). Working from the slowest to the fastest, here’s a quick guide to the different tempos used in classical music and the typical BPM ranges they fall within on a metronome.
The different tempo speeds
- Grave (very slowly and solemnly, 20-40 BPM)
- Lento (very slowly, 40-60 BPM)
- Largo (slowly and broadly, 40-60 BPM)
- Larghetto (fairly slow, 60-66 BPM)
- Adagio (slowly, leisurely, 66-76 BPM)
- Andante (walking pace, 76-108 BPM)
- Moderato (moderate or medium, 108-120 BPM)
- Allegro (fast and bright, 120-156 BMP)
- Vivace (lively, 156-168 BPM)
- Presto (very fast, 168-200 BPM)
- Prestissimo (even faster, 200-208 BPM)
Image by Getty Images