Tricks to Teach Tempo Terms to Piano Students

My students tend to remember dynamics and other markings without much of an issue. But tempo marks? Forget it.

Teaching tempo marks to piano students

I think it’s because they don’t even notice them in their repertoire. The positioning means that they’re a little “out-of-the-way” of the line of vision. Plus the words themselves are just that little bit trickier to spell and pronounce.

The first four tempo terms I need to teach are andante, moderato, allegretto and allegro. And I have my own tried and tested tricks for teaching these.

Some of you may start with a completely different set. If that’s the case – try to come up with your own tricks to help students remember those too. Once they have a few under their belt it’ll be much easier to learn more.

Tricks for Tempo Terms

My first teaching trick is for Andante. For this one I tell my students to imagine an army of ants walking along the road in step with each other.


Moderato is nice and easy – just swap the “o” for an “e” and it changes from Italian into English. Like magic.

I definitely know I’m not the only one to use this trick, but if you haven’t heard this before then here it is: allegro’s quick or a – leg – grows quick. Get it? 😉allegro

And lastly in this first group of four is Allegretto. I find many students tend to think that this is very quick instead of moderately quick.

So I tell them that the “etto” pushes over the allegro and makes it become smaller so there’s less of it. This one is kind of convoluted I know but it does seem to stick in students’ minds pretty well.

Download the pdf of these posters by entering your details in the box below.

Vibrant Music Teaching members, you can access this resource inside the VMT library. Not a member yet? Find out more about becoming a member here.

Flipping Tempo Mark Teaching

I cover these four tempo mark tricks in this flipped Thinking Theory video. Send your piano parents a link to the video so that they can watch it during the week and come to the lesson prepared.

That way you can use the lesson time to reinforce the concepts (using the posters above) and answer any questions they may have.

After watching this video students are ready to complete pages 29 and 30 of Thinking Theory Book One.

This is actually the last flipped video for book one, after this the rest of the book is all review (I include lots of review in these books). Then it’s onwards and upwards to Thinking Theory Book One Plus, or Book Two, depending on the student.

More Flipped Thinking Theory

If you liked the approach of this video, you might also like these others:

Do you have your own tempo term tricks?

How do you help your students to remember the tempo names? Tell us your ideas and innovations in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Tricks to Teach Tempo Terms to Piano Students”

  1. I love these signs! I used them at a group lesson to review tempo terms with my students and added lyrics to familiar tunes to make the concepts even more memorable. They had so much fun doing a simple cup tap activity tapping and sliding cups with a partner to match the tempo of the song. For example:
    (Sing to the Tune of 3 Blind Mice)
    Allegro’s quick! A leg grows quick!
    Allegro’s quick! A leg grows quick!
    It’s faster than Lento,
    It’s faster than Adagio
    Its’ faster than Andante
    Allegro’s quick!

    Sing to the tune of the Ants Go Marching:
    Andante marches walking pace Hurrah, Hurrah!
    Andante marches walking pace Hurrah! Hurrah!
    Andante marches walking pace, be sure to walk it’s not a race
    Andante marches down to the ground to his own little space.
    More details including free tempo “speedometers” are on this post: https://heidispianonotes.blogspot.com/2020/04/unforgettable-tempo-term-songs.html


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