I cannot understand what the score is trying to say here. It simply says 'tempo'. I can understand the 'a tempo' that is used later on, but what do I have to do at the part where it simply says 'tempo' ?

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(This excerpt is from Simandl's 30 etudes for String Bass, Etude #17)

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    I was about to say it just means a tempo, but then I saw there is an explicit a tempo later on!
    – AakashM
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 11:12
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    @AakashM But that a tempo also comes after a rit.! I wonder if this tempo is related to the tenuto markings right before it. Sometimes three tenuto markings in a row like that function like a rit.; tenuto is from the Italian for "to hold."
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 11:19
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    Maybe it means "there is a timing here" :-) (or, less absurdly, the typesetter forgot the "a" Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 11:24
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    @Richard looking at the full score (including piano accompaniment) on IMSLP, the tempo in question is actually on the lowest staff shown here (where the p is), so I guess it resets the accel. two bars earlier?
    – AakashM
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 11:24
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    I would just take it as a typo for "a tempo". Hand-engraved music editions often have misprints, and this is fairly innocuous compared with some infamous ones that have survived through several editions, like "pp" being misprinted as "ff" in a well-known Beethoven sonata! I have a Russian edition of some piano music which even has misprints for some of the clefs, let alone "trivia" like a tempo marks.
    – user19146
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 1:19

2 Answers 2


'Tempo' in this piece means to return to the original speed. Before, there was a ritardando, meaning to slow down, so now you should return to the original tempo.


as you can see, the original tempo of the piece (I believe it is Tempo di Pollaca, 88 bpm) is slowed down (ritardando) right before a Cantabile section comes in, with dolce (sweet) and slower. So this section is to be played calmly and smooth. In the 12th measure of Cantabile comes the "tempo" marking, but look at the three notes before in the 11th measure, which are detaché, making them heavier. The tempo marking here means play the 12th, 13th and 14th measure in a tempo of the general piece (before Cantabile) and in mid 14th measure slow down to Cantabile dolce again (which what "a tempo" means in this context). Play 15th, 16th and 17th in this way then mid 18th go faster and louder accelerando and crescendo and in 24th slow down and continue in mf and Cantabile.

  • While the tenuto marks can mean play those 3 notes heavier, and possibly slightly longer, there's no need for the 'tempo' mark, as the subsequent notes are back in proper time anyway. A courtesy mark, probably.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 11:52
  • The "tempo" and "a tempo" refer to two different tempos- Tempo di pollaca and Cantabile.
    – boris42
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 11:59

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