104. The word time in musical nomenclature has been greatly abused,

having been used to indicate:

(1) Rhythm; as the time was wrong.

(2) Variety of measure-signature; as two-four time.

(3) Rate of speed; as the time was too slow.

To obviate the confusion naturally resulting from this three-fold and

inexact use of the word, many teachers of music are
adopting certain

changes in terminology as noted in Sections 105, 106, and 107. Such

changes may cause some confusion at first, but seem to be necessary if

our musical terminology is to be at all exact.

105. The first of the changes mentioned in the above paragraph is to

substitute the word rhythm for the word time when correcting

mistakes involving misplaced accent, etc. E.g., Your rhythm in the

third measure of the lower score was wrong, instead of Your

time--was wrong.

106. The second change mentioned would eliminate such blind and

misleading expressions as two-four time, three-four time, four-four

time, six-eight time, etc., and substitute therefor such

self-explanatory designations as two-quarter measure, three-quarter

measure, four-quarter measure, six-eighth measure, etc. E.g.,

The first movement of the Beethoven Sonata Op. 2, No. 3, is in

four-quarter measure.

107. The third change referred to above would substitute the word

tempo (plural--tempi) for the word time in all allusions to rate

of speed. E.g., The scherzo was played in very rapid tempo.

The word tempo has been used in this connection so long by

professional musicians that there can be no possible objection

to it on the ground of its being a foreign word. In fact there

is a decided advantage in having a word that is understood in

all countries where modern music (i.e., civilized music) is

performed, and just here is found the principal reason for the

popularity of the Italian language in musical terminology.

Schumann, MacDowell and other well known composers have tried

to break down this popularity by using their own respective

vernaculars in both tempo and dynamic indications, but in

spite of these attempts the Italian language is still quite

universally used for this purpose, and deservedly so, for if

we are to have a music notation that is universal, so that

an American is able to play music written by a Frenchman or a

German, or a Russian, then we ought also to have a certain

number of expressions referring to tempo, etc., which will be

understood by all, i.e., a music terminology that is

universal. The Italian language was the first in the field, is

the most universally known in this particular at the present

time, and is entirely adequate. It should therefore be

retained in use as a sort of musical Esperanto.

108. There are several ways of finding the correct tempo of a


1. From the metronomic indication found at the beginning of

many compositions. Thus e.g., the mark M.M. 92 (Maelzel's

Metronome 92) means that if the metronome (either Maelzel's or

some other reliable make) is set with the sliding weight at

the figure 92 there will be 92 clicks per minute, and they

will serve to indicate to the player or singer the rate at

which the beats (or pulses) should follow one another. This is

undoubtedly the most accurate means of determining tempi in

spite of slight inaccuracies in metronomes[25] and of the

mistakes which composers themselves often make in giving

metronomic indications.

[Footnote 25: To test the accuracy of a metronome, set the

weight at 60 and see if it beats seconds. If it gives more

than 62 or 63 or less than 57 or 58 clicks per minute it will

not be of much service in giving correct tempi and should be

taken to a jeweller to be regulated.]

2. Another means of determining the tempo of a composition is

to play it at different tempi and then to choose the one that

feels right for that particular piece of music. This is

perhaps the best means of getting at the correct tempo but is

open only to the musician of long experience, sure judgment,

and sound scholarship.

3. A third method of finding tempi is through the

interpretation of certain words used quite universally by

composers to indicate the approximate rate of speed and the

general mood of compositions. The difficulty with this method

is that one can hardly find two composers who employ the same

word to indicate the same tempo, so that no absolute rate of

speed can be indicated, and in the last analysis the conductor

or performer must fall back on the second method cited

above--i.e., individual judgment.

109. In spite of the inexactness of use in the case of expressions

relating to tempo, these expressions are nevertheless extremely useful

in giving at least a hint of what was in the composer's mind as he

conceived the music that we are trying to interpret. Since a number of

the terms overlap in meaning, and since the meaning of no single term is

absolute, these expressions relating to tempo are best studied in

groups. Perhaps the most convenient grouping is as follows:

1. Grave (lit. weighty, serious), larghissimo,

adagissimo, and lentissimo--indicating the very slowest

tempo used in rendering music.

2. Largo,[26] adagio,[27] and lento--indicating quite a

slow tempo.

[Footnote 26: Largo, larghetto, etc., are derivatives of the

Latin word largus, meaning large, broad.]

[Footnote 27: Adagio means literally at ease.]

3. Larghetto (i.e., a little largo) and adagietto (a

little adagio)--a slow tempo, but not quite so slow as

largo, etc.

4. Andante (going, or walking, as contrasted with running)

and andantino--indicating a moderately slow tempo.

Andantino is now quite universally taken slightly faster

than andante, in spite of the fact that if andante means

going, and if ino is the diminutive ending, then

andantino means going less, i.e., more slowly!

5. Moderato--a moderate tempo.

6. Allegro and allegretto[28]--a moderately quick tempo,

allegretto being usually interpreted as meaning a tempo

somewhat slower than allegro.

[Footnote 28: There has been some difference of opinion as to

which of these two terms indicates the more rapid tempo: an

analysis tells us that if allegro means quick, and if etto

is the diminutive ending, then allegretto means a little

quick--i.e., slower than allegro. These two terms are,

however, so closely allied in meaning that a dispute over the

matter is a mere waste of breath.]

The word allegro means literally happy, joyous, and this

literal meaning is still sometimes applicable, but in the

majority of instances the term refers only to rate of speed.

7. Vivo, vivace, (lit. lively)--a tempo between allegro

and presto.

8. Presto, prestissimo, vivacissimo, and prestissimo

possibile--the most rapid tempo possible.