I have a song that is just acoustic guitar/vocals/and cello and I don't want to give it a tempo because I enjoy the way it sounds just played at the tempo of whatever emotion I have or venue I'm playing at, etc...

I was just wondering if there was a word for a song without a tempo (just played however I feel/free form)


  • 5
    Does the song have a consistent tempo once you start playing it, out just changes each time you play it, or does the tempo change as you play it, too?
    – Kevin
    Dec 18 '13 at 21:11

The term you are looking for is A piacere (It.). This basically means that the piece should be played at the performers discretion with regard to tempo and rhythm. Literally, "at pleasure".


Another term often used is 'Ad Lib.' Ad libitum freely, or do what you like .

  • Problem with this term is, that it is far broader; anything between adding repetitions and inserting an improvisation would also be covered.
    – guidot
    Jun 11 '19 at 8:39
  • Molto expressivo (very expressive)
  • Poco expressivo (slightly expressive)

In English, you can also use:

  • Free tempo / free time
  • Open tempo / open time

I add the proposal of tempo giusto (Italian), where wikipedia quotes:

to request the performer to use his/her experience in this way: that is, to intuit the correct tempo from the structure and nature of the piece itself


Check out "tempo rubato."

That is the vocalists instruction to a band when s/he wants it to follow the way it is being sung without regard to the song's usual beat.

  • 1
    Welcome to Music.SE! Rubato is a relevant term in this context, and may even be what the OP had in mind. But note that strictly speaking there's still a fixed tempo with rubato – only, not every single beat is actually played on time; rather you fall behind in one place and take up tempo in another. Aug 5 '15 at 7:44

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