What is TEMPO?

Classical MPR

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn several words to describe tempo, or speed, in music.

Free Downloads:

ENGAGE students

WATCH. Watch the Class Notes Video: Fast or Slow Means Tempo. (3 min.)

EXPLORE sounds

DRAW. Have students draw a blank tempo spectrum chart, like the one below. List the eight tempo markings mentioned in the video from slowest to fastest. If desired, add the descriptors of “slowest, medium, super duper fast, etc” to help students understand. (If you prefer to have the chart ready for the students, download our Tempo Chart Worksheet .)

tempo chart

BRAINSTORM. “Underneath each tempo draw a picture of something that often moves at that speed. A snail or turtle might be at the slow end of your chart. A cheetah might be at the fast end. Vehicles, like bikes, cars and airplanes, work well too.”

PLAY. Play a game of Tempo Olympics! Create a set of tempo flashcards (or print our Tempo Flashcards.) Begin with just three: largo, moderato and presto. These represent the slow, middle and fast end of the spectrum. Invite students to pick an activity, such as push-ups or jumping jacks. Pick a flashcard and, all together, perform the designated activity at that tempo. Pick a different card and try the activity at a different tempo. Notice how largo jumping jacks feel very different than presto jumping jacks!

Tempo Flashcards
Tempo Flashcards
Presto Flash card

EXTEND learning


  • Younger Students: Focus on just two tempi with younger students with this silly video about presto and largo.

  • Older Students: Designate two sides of the room - one as largo and one as presto. Listen to Bartok’s Evening in Transylvania and ask students to change sides of the room when the tempo changes.

    Béla Bartók - Evening in Transylvania
    Jeno Jando, piano

LISTEN. Use the playlists below to explore the various tempi (the plural of tempo). While listening, students can move, draw, or journal.

LARGO listening examples

MODERATO listening examples

PRESTO listening examples

Related Lesson Plans

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