What is PRESTO?

Marc Sendra Martorell/Unsplash

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn about “presto,” or super fast, music.

ENGAGE students

EXPLAIN.Tempo is the word we use to describe the speed of music. Every speed, fast, and slow, and in between, has its own word, or tempo marking. Today we will talk about very, very fast music. When musicians see ‘presto’ on their music, they know they will need to play extremely fast.”

DISCUSS. “Here are five things moving fast. Can you name them all? Can you think of more things that move super fast? Can you imagine music going along with each of these images? How fast would it sound?”

Images from Unsplash/Pixabay

EXPLORE sounds

LISTEN. “Now we will listen to five pieces of music, all of which are marked ‘presto.’ As you listen, maybe you want to draw fast-moving pictures, or see if you can move to the speed or tempo of the music.”

SAY. “First is Presto, from ‘Summer,’ part of Vivaldi's famous composition called The Four Seasons.”

SAY. “Next is the third movement of J.S. Bach's Italian Concerto, marked ‘Presto.’ In this video, we don't see the performer's fingers. Can you imagine how fast they are moving?”

SAY. “Here is the third movement of Beethoven's Symphony 7. The tempo is marked presto. Does it sound as fast as the other two pieces? Sometimes composers have slightly different ideas about exactly how fast presto should be.”

SAY. “Here is ‘Dance of the Comedians’ from the Bedrich Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride. Can you imagine dancing this fast? Try it while you listen.”

SAY. “Finally, listen to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, played on the flute. Do flute player's fingers move as fast as a flying bumblebee?”

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