Gaining an appreciation of the speed, or tempo of a piece of music is very important. There will be times when there will be no conductor, metronome, or click track to help you. Music can be slow, or it can be fast.
To understand at what speed music should be played, we need to understand the signs given to us. As an example, we need to know what is the musical term for fast. Speed is linked to Tempo.
These signals and messages about tempo from the composer were only really introduced in the 17th Century. Before then, the composer had no way of informing the musicians what was happening. Now, of course, we can see exactly what should happen.
Tempo and individual instructions tell us how fast a piece of music should be played. It is measured in beats per minute or BPM. If a piece is written in 4/4 time, one hundred beats are equal to 100 quarter notes, or crotchets, in a minute.
Are you a tapper?
When you hear music, do you nod your head or tap your foot in time with the music? You’re probably tapping along with the tempo. It is quite a natural thing to do, and it begins with most of us at a very early age. Musicians “tap” into that a little deeper, and the feeling of tempo can become quite precise.
The Musical Terms
We are going to teach you how to identify the musical term for fast. We are going to identify most of them. But first, let’s think about what the tempo of the song is and does.
Like many words you will find on your sheet music, the tempo is shown as an Italian word at the beginning of the music. It is the composer’s way of telling you how slow or fast the piece should be played. That tempo will apply for the duration of the piece unless you are instructed otherwise.
More than just how fast
From the tempo that is given, we also get an idea of the mood that the composer wishes to capture. As we shall see soon, one of the slowest tempos is “Grave.” It doesn’t take much to work out the music is solemn. At the other end of the tempo scale, we get “Prestissimo,” which is saying, as fast as you can.
Some other words and phrases need to be understood. But for this article, we are focusing on tempo, BPM, and especially the terminologies for fast.
Let’s take a look at terms for tempo in music:
- Grave – Very slow and solemn – 25-45 BPM.
- Largo/Lento – Both are slow – 40-60.
- Adagio – Slow but with expression – 65-75.
- Andante – What is known as walking pace – 75-105.
- Moderato – Moderate pace – 105-120.
- Allegretto – Moderately fast – 110-120.
- Allegro Moderato – Fast but slower than Allegro – 115-120.
- Allegro – Fast and Bright – 120-156.
- Vivace – Fast and Lively – 156-176.
- Vivacissimo – Fast, quicker than Vivace – 172-176.
- Allegrissimo – Very Fast – 172-176.
- Presto – Very Fast – 168-200.
- Prestissimo – As fast as possible – 200+.
The Beats Per Minute (BPM) that have been quoted are just rough indications. You may well find differing beats elsewhere. But they are always meant as a guide rather than a definitive number. Those are the most common labels applied in the music, but there are also some others.
- Accelerando means play faster.
- Non-Troppo means not to play too fast.
These are known as modifiers. They give a little more explanation to the musician. For example, you will often see in the music the term “Allegro.” We have already seen that it means “Fast and Bright.”
But the composer may be concerned that someone playing it might get a little over-enthusiastic. They will not want “allegro” to become “allegrissimo.” They will therefore add a modifier like “non-troppo.”
As we have seen, that means “not too fast or too much.” This will then appear on the music as “allegro non-troppo.” Just a little warning to the musician not to get carried away.
It can get confusing
When asking, “What is the musical term for fast?” it can get confusing. That’s because a lot of the definitions in terms of BPMs and explanations cross over each other. The idea, though, is to give the composer as many ways as possible to give the message to the musician.
In an orchestral situation, it will be the conductor who interprets the music. He or she will decide what is the difference between Fast and Bright or Fast and Lively. There are other expressions describing tempo, but they do not apply to playing fast.
More indicators conveyed by the composer that advise on the mood of the piece. They might use the marker “furioso,” meaning furious or aggressive. That would be applied to an appellation about fast playing. You might see “allegro furioso,” meaning that he wants you to play “fast and furious.” There are other mood markers, but they don’t apply to faster speeds.
How is Tempo Conveyed?
The composer will either use one of the Italian words on the music before the commencement of the piece. Or, these days, you may see an indicator telling you that there are 70 crochet beats played every minute. You can, of course, vary the number according to how fast the composer wants the music played. They may also use other symbols than crotchets.
What Is The Musical Term For Fast – Final Thoughts
Understanding when the composer wants you to play fast or faster is important for the piece. It is necessary to be very familiar with this terminology.
Sometimes to help you set the right Beats per Minute and how fast you are to play a Mechanical Metronome can come in handy. You can also get a Rechargeable 3 In 1 Digital Metronome Tuner for All Instruments. And a book that covers what we have discussed, plus other aspects of music theory, is Music Theory Essentials.
The Speed or tempo you play the piece is vital to its outcome. It is therefore very important you know the musical terms for how and when to play fast.
Until next time, let your music play.