Andante Tells a Musician Take a Walk With Your Music

Image courtesy of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via flickr cc license

If you spoke Italian around the 17th century, then the word andante would mean one thing to you, "walking." Around the mid-1700s, Italian composers began to use the word in music composition and soon musicians all over the world knew that if they were playing music and they saw that word, they were to slow down the music tempo to a slow, walking pace.

Tempo of Music

Technically, the musical term ​andante is an indication to play or sing music with a relaxed, natural and moderate tempo; a light, flowing rhythm. Tempo is the speed or pace of a given song or section of music, indicating how fast or slow you should play the music and is usually measured by beats per minute. Tempo can change mid-song by a conductor or bandleader, or the timekeeper of a band, usually, the drummer, can lead the band in a speed change.

Beats Per Minute

Andante is usually measured at 76 to 108 beats per minute. An accurate way to measure beats per minute is to play along with a mechanical or electronic metronome, which is a device that ticks out the tempo of a song. Beats per minute is a unit typically used as a measure of tempo in music and heart rate.

Italian Terms in Music

Music is written and read by musicians all over the world. Interestingly, the terms used to described tempo on sheet music dates back to about the time of Beethoven and Mozart. Most of the words used are Italian because following the Italian Renaissance many composers were Italian. It was during this period that tempo indications were first used extensively.

Closely Related Terms to Andante

There are other terms that are closely related to andante, including adagio, allegretto, andante moderato and andantino.

Andante generally means faster than adagio, which is described as slow and stately. Alternately, andante is slower than allegretto, which means moderately fast.

Andante moderato means faster than andante and measures at about 92 to 112 beats per minute. Andantino means slightly faster than andante and measures about 80 to 108 beats per minute.

Musical Terms Meaning Slow

There are several terms that denote a slower tempo in music, all terms that are slower than andante. The absolutely slowest tempo is larghissimo, which measures as 24 beats per minute or less. It is described as "very, very slow." A tempo that is "very slow," at 25 to 45 beats per minute is grave. The term largo means "broadly" which also connotes a quality or texture to the tempo, it is measured at 40 to 60 beats per minute. Lento means "slowly," which is roughly the same tempo as largo, measuring at 45-60 beats per minute.

Fun Fact About Word Andante

The word andante in Italian dates back to the 1700s to literally mean, "walking," as the present participle of andare to walk or to go. However, in modern day Italian, the present participle for "walking" in Italian is camminando.