Piano songs - Canon in D

Execute tempo of piano songs by understanding their artistic image to invoke the correct atmosphere. Speed is gained incrementally by practising slow at first


Tempo is one of those elements in piano playing that ultimately makes or breaks a rendition. Another is tone. How well you execute tempo determines the outcome of the listening experience. Certainly a musical phrase can be performed as andante or vivace but it cannot be both and everything else in between. Therefore having a sense of the tempo you wish to execute a phrase in advance is most recommended.

It sets the pace of the narration of the music thus projects the artistic image of a song. Deviated tempo would send a different image from what was originally intended. Which leads to the conclusion that to get the tempo right one would be required to comprehend deeply the artistic image of the song, the composer’s spirit and style.

Tempo of piano songs


Previous articles have explained how to capture the artistic image of a composition. In this one, executing the tempo as required is the main theme. Tempo is the speed at which a composition is to be played = pacing [reference WordWeb 4.0]. From the definition alone it is clear that executing proper tempo is a matter of controlling the speed.

The written score of a composition usually indicates at what tempo it is to be played. For example 120 crotchet beats per minute sets the pace of the whole composition. Then there are tempo instructions at beginning, mid-way and end of phrases because it can evolve according to the artistic image they project. Example shown in Image 1 below.

To get a rendition fall nicely into place tempo-wise, control the speed. Adjust accordingly to slow down when necessary and be able to accelerate again on cue. That said, it is not as easy as it sounds. The ability to get up to speed is gained incrementally. Even if I could play a phrase from Rondo Alla Turca fast, when I attempt for the first time to play a phrase from Canon in D fast all of a sudden, I was not successful.

Discover the tempo of
piano songs incrementally


Getting up to speed successfully requires a counter-intuitive action. That is to play slowly and increase the speed gradually. For example by practising the phrase in Image 2 below as breves instead of as they were written. Then as minims, next as crotchets before including the quavers and semiquavers.

Furthermore, in the process of getting up to speed, alternate the bars between fast and slow. For instance play the first bar of the phrase in Image 2 slow and as you enter the following bar play it faster. Let us say you practised the first bar as minims, the following bar should be practised as crotchets. Extend the exercise to alternate the speed every 2 bars. Later on it could be extended longer to alternate the speed between phrases. Meaning to say playing a complete phrase slow followed by the next phrase played faster. Each phrase may contain 4 to 5 bars.

Such method of practise allow the pianist to play fast gradually. Giving the opportunity for the fingers, hands, arms and the rest of the body including the mind to keep up with the increased pace of the piano playing.

Tempo enhances the effect of the timbre of an instrument on the listener, in piano playing it sets the atmosphere of a rendition of a composition. Because it is an integral element which determines the success or failure of one’s piano playing, get a firm grasp of the required tempo in advance. Accomplished by understanding the artistic image of the composition, the composer’s spirit and style. Executing tempo properly is a matter of controlling speed. Gain speed incrementally by playing slow in the beginning.

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