Music uses a lot of terminologies to explain things, and slow tempos are no exception. So, what is a slow tempo called in music?
This is what we explore in this article. We also give video examples of songs with a slow tempo.
What Is A Slow Tempo Called In Music?
There are multiple names for a slow tempo, such as adagietto (65 to 69 BPM), adagio (55 to 65 BPM), largo (45 and 50 BPM), lento (40 to 45 BPM) and grave (20 to 40 BPM).
Below is more information on commonly used slow tempo terms and the speeds they represent.
Adagietto is not a super common tempo term in music. However, when you do see it, you can expect to play something about 65 to 69 BPM.
Another term for this tempo range is “rather slow.” It's slower than andante, which refers to a walking pace.
Adagio is slightly slower than adagietto, with an average tempo of 55 to 65 BPM. You can also see this tempo written as “slow and stately” or even “at ease.”
This tempo range is probably the easiest to hear in your head. After all, 60 BPM means there's one beat per second, which most people can “feel.”
Many musicians think of the tempo largo when they think of a slow tempo in music. This term refers to any tempo between 45 and 50 BPM.
You might also use this tempo when your music says “broadly.” Plenty of movements of music use “largo” as the title, so you can refer to those to get an idea of the tempo.
Lento is even slower than largo, with an average tempo range of 40 to 45 BPM. You may use this tempo when your music says “slowly.”
At this point, many conductors and performers will subdivide the beats to help keep time. It's a lot easier to count “one and” at 80 to 90 BPM than to count one beat at half the speed.
Grave (often pronounced “GRAHV-eh”) is the slowest tempo in music. It covers music with a tempo of 20 to 40 BPM, and you may see it written as “slow and solemn.”
Since it's so slow, there aren't a ton of songs with this tempo range. However, it can be a good tempo range to use to practice music and get the right notes before speeding up a piece.
What's the Slowest Piece of Music?
The slowest piece of music is called As Slow as Possible. John Cage wrote the piece, which was first performed in 2001.
Unfortunately, no one will ever hear the entire thing because the performance won't end until the year 2640.
Slow Tempo Examples
It's one thing to list some of the slower tempos in music. However, it might help to hear some examples of different slow tempos.
Consider the following pieces and the tempo they're at. Then, you can think of these examples of classical music and pop when trying to hear similar slow tempos before playing music.
Largo From New World Symphony by Dvorak
Despite its name, this movement may fall near the upper end of the adagio range. However, you can also play it more slowly so that it's closer to a true largo.
Many conductors will take this piece at about 68 BPM. However, some may go slower, especially in rehearsals, to help the ensemble play together more cohesively.
If the tempo is too slow, the English horn player might have a hard time getting through the solo. But if you take it too fast, you'll lose the character of the movement's title.
Sarabande From Partita in A Minor by J.S. Bach
Sarabande is the third movement of Bach's Partita for solo flute, and it's the one slow movement of the entire work. The average tempo for this piece is about 56 BPM, so adagio.
Some players will take it faster or slower. However, in Baroque music, the character is just as important as the speed when it comes to choosing the right tempo.
This movement represents a dance, so it should move. But players shouldn't try to make it as fast or virtuosic as the other parts of the piece.
Grave From Fantasia 2 by Telemann
Another solo flute piece that at least starts off slowly is the second Telemann Fantasia. This piece quickly gets faster, but the opening section is marked grave.
Many players don't go as slow as even 40 BPM. However, playing it at about 50 or 52 BPM is not uncommon, which is at the faster end of largo.
The long notes in this section make it hard to keep from playing too fast. It's also hard to transition from the slow tempo to the faster section, “vivace-adagio.”
Lose You To Love Me by Selena Gomez
However, you can count it at half speed to get 51 BPM. This can make it a great option if you’re having difficulty picking out the tempo in classical music.
The tempo stays pretty steady throughout, which is also nice. By comparison, it’s not uncommon for the tempo to fluctuate in classical music, which can make it hard to use as a reference.
What Is A Slow Tempo Called In Music? Final Thoughts
In music, you can use a variety of terms for slow tempos. You might use adagio or adagietto at the faster end. However, the slowest of the slowest tempos include grave and lento.
Keep those tempos in mind and refer to some examples when you need to play or sing more slowly.