A Music Lesson on Tempo
do composers use tempo to communicate a musical idea?
is a fun game that may be used as an extension of a lesson on tempo.
of sheetmusic with different tempo markings.
or electric keyboard
of classical music examples of the following tempo markings: largo, adagio,
andante, allegro, presto. One easy way to demonstrate all tempi is with
Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
I: Allegro, Violin Concerto in E Major
Violin Concerto in E Major
II: Adagio Molto, Violin Concerto in F Minor
III: Presto, Violin Concerto in G minor
This lesson introduces students to the musical concept of tempo. Through music
examples and play, the students will be able to clap and move to different
tempos as well as identify different tempos using classical music terminology.
Ask the students why a composer would write a slow song or a fast song. Discuss
Define tempo for the class: “Tempo is the speed of the beat.” Have this definition written on the
board. “Clap the beat with me!” Start clapping a beat. The class
joins in. Start slowing down the beat. Have the class follow your tempo. Stop
and asked what happened to the tempo. Repeat exercise, but speed up this time.
Have the students explain how the tempo sped up.
and show how composers write the tempo they want their music to be played at,
on the top of the score. This is called a tempo marking. When the composer
wants the tempo to change later in the music, he will write the new tempo
marking over the place in the music where the new tempo begins. These tempo
markings are usually in Italian because the first composers to use tempo
markings on their scores were Italian. Pass examples of scores with tempo
markings around the room. Allow time for the students to be able to find the
tempo markings. Or have examples of tempo markings on music displayed via an
overhead projector or SMART board in addition to the music scores.
the tempo markings on the board or display signs containing the tempo marking
terms. One suggestion would be to include a visual image which correlates to a
term, for example: a sign that reads, “Andante,” along with a picture
of a person or funny animal walking.
a traditional song, such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” on the piano
at an easy, walking tempo. Ask what tempo they thought you played. Explain that
this tempo is andante or a walking tempo. Sound out the word phonemically.
the students to walk around the room at the andante tempo while you play the
song at an andante tempo again. The students return to their seats.
this exercise with adagio. Explain that adagio means “slowly” in
Italian. Play the song at an adagio tempo while the students move slowly around
the room or walk in place if your space is limited.
this exercise for largo. Define largo as “very slow and dignified or
stately.” Tell the students to move in slow motion.
allegro allow the students to run in place. Define allegro as “quick and
lively”, and for presto, “very fast and sudden,” have the students
clap very quickly along with the music.
the students if they have ever played, “Red Light, Green Light.”
Allow students to explain how the game is played. Explain that they will play a game
similar to “Red Light, Green Light, “but this game is called
“Largo, Presto!” The caller will call out either largo, andante, or
presto. Ask students, “How should you move if the caller says, andante,
largo or presto?” They will move toward the caller at that speed until
the caller shouts out another tempo. The first person to reach the caller
becomes the caller for the next group. The teacher will observe the students
and if you catch them moving at the wrong tempo, they are out until the next
the students into a hallway, gym or outside. Count off by 4s or 5s to create
small groups. The first group lines up across the hall. The next group lines up
behind the first group and so on to allow for each group to have a turn playing
the game. Start the game by being the first caller. Walk down the hall about
10-15 yards away. Begin the game. Stand on the side of the game after the first
group’s turn in order to officiate. Allow for each group to have at least
to class. Label each tempo marking written on the board with a number 1-5. Once
the students are seated, play a music example of a tempo. Check for understanding
by having the students raise the number of fingers that corresponds with their
answer. Play all the examples for each tempo marking.
is a fun, interactive lesson from the San Francisco Symphony on tempo: http://www.sfskids.org/templates/musicLabF.asp?pageid=11
website, Creating Music, has been created by Morton Subotnick,
the pioneer in electronic music.
Click on his “rhythm band” link to allow students to create
their own rhythms that can be played back at three different tempi:
Check in your community to see if there is a local band or orchestra which
would allow students to experience the different tempos of a live concert! Your
school districts may also have a music department at the secondary level in
which your students can sit in on a practice and observe how the conductor
helps the musicians keep and change tempos.
NYS CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
Students identify the various settings in which they hear music and the various
resources that are used to produce music during a typical week; explain why the
particular type of music was used (d).
Students demonstrate appropriate audience behavior, including attentive
listening, in a variety of musical settings in and out of school (e).
Students describe the music in terms related to basic elements such as melody,
rhythm, harmony, dynamics, timbre, form, style, etc. (b).
Students describe the music’s context in
terms related to its social and psychological functions and settings (e.g.,
roles of participants, effects of music, uses of music with other events or
objects, etc.) (d)
Students identify and demonstrate movement
elements and skills (such as bend, twist, slide, skip, hop, etc.) (a).