All music, fast or slow, has rhythm. Rhythm is the steady flow of music in time.

Most music is kept going by a regular pulse which is called the beat. It keeps going steadily under the music, like the heartbeat or the ticking of a clock.

Tempo refers to how fast or slow the rhythm is. Here are the most common musical tempos, and they are expressed by using Italian words:


                  Lento                     Very slow

                  Adagio                   Slow

                  Andante                 Moderately slow

                  Moderato               Medium fast

                  Allegretto              A little  faster than moderato

                  Allegro                   Fast

                  Presto                    Very fast

                  Ritardando            Gradually slower

                  Accelerando          Gradually faster

A composer uses tempo to indicate mood. Music with an adagio tempo is usually gentle. Music with an allegro tempo often is happy and cheerful. Music with a presto tempo gives the listener a sense of lively action.


Dynamics is the term for describing different levels of loudness.

Composers indicate the dynamics they want by using Italian words:


                  Pianissimo (pp)                          Very soft

                  Piano (p)                                      Soft

                  Mezzo piano (mp)                       Medium soft

                  Mezzo forte (mf)                         Medium loud

                  Forte (f)                                       Loud 

                  Fortissimo (ff)                             Very loud

                  Crescendo (cresc.)                       Gradually louder

                  Decrescendo (decresc.)               Gradually softer 

 The composer also must think about how loudly or softly each instrument should be played.