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Commonly Used Words


This Italian word at the beginning of a music piece indicates how slow or fast the piece should be played. This is called the tempo (from the Latin word tempus meaning time) which is effective throughout the duration of the music unless the composer indicates otherwise. Here are the most common tempo marks used in music:


Words Used to Signify Tempo
Word Definition
accelerando play faster
adagio play slowly
allargando slow down and grow louder
allegretto moderately fast, merrily
allegro play fast and lively
andante play moderately slow
andantino moving moderately
a tempo play at the original speed
conmodo leisurely
con moto with movement
grave very, very slow
largo play very slow
larghetto fairly slow
l'istesso tempo play at the same speed
moderato play at a moderate speed
non troppo not too fast
poco a poco gradually
presto play fast and lively
pretissimo extremely fast
ritardando play gradually slower
ritenuto play slower
sostenuto sustained
vivace lively

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