music guide

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In other words - speed!

IMPORTANT: The only person who is in control of the speed of a piece of music is the conductor! If a piece of music is to be sung slowly the conductor will show you all how slow "slowly" is - this is bacause we all have our own idea of how fast or slow things are. If the conductor does not contol us by showing us how fast/slow he /she has decided the music should go then it all falls apart very quickly in chaos. So watch them!

The general speed of a piece of music can be given as an expression (See Music Guide 07) or, more precisely, as a metronome mark - or, more usually, both.

tempo -
                  metronome markHere we can see that a metronome mark indicates a crotchet and a 90. The metronome mark indicates how may beats are in a minute - just like setting the beat on a mechanical metronome. This piece of music indicates that there are 90 crotchets (beats) in every minute. If the number was 60 then it would be sixty crotchets (beats) per minute (ie one beat per second). If the number was 120 then it would be one hundred and twenty crotchets (beats) per minute (ie two beats beat per second). We start getting into problems if the metronome gets too high - and it would tire out the conductor beating at that speed, so instead of a crotchet the music may indicate a minim. this would mean that each beat is worth two and there are x of them in a minute.

In other words:

crotchet = 60 is sixty beats per minute with each beat indicating one crotchet. This would be half the speed of minim = 60 because, although there are still sixty beats in a minute, each one of those beats is worth a minim (two crotchets)

We can change the speed of the music by getting quicker or slower. Getting quicker uses the word accelerando (abbreviated to accel.) above the music. Getting slower uses either ritardando (abbreviated to rit.) or rallentando (abbreviated to rall.) above the music. Rallentando is often used for the slowing up at the end of a piece of music for the "big finish".

TIP You really need to watch the conductor when speeding up or slowing down! Some of us are Ferraris while others are on push-bikes. When we are singing in a choir we all need to speed up or slow down at the same rate.