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I'm learning Beethoven's 5th symphony 2nd movement, and I have some questions.

  1. What tempo is andante con moto?

  2. How do you read the 32nd and 64th notes? For example, you count 16th notes with 1 e & a 2 e & a....

  3. What's the difference between 3/4 and 3/8 time when using a metronome?

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  • As I mention in my answer, Andante Con Moto is a character indication not a tempo marking.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 31, 2017 at 12:19
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    @Neil Meyer, I partially disagree--Con Moto is a character indication, but Andante is a tempo marking. Andante indicates that the piece is relatively slow (slower than the middle-speed Moderato) but faster than Adagio.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 31, 2017 at 12:26
  • @NeilMeyer - if andante is not a tempo mark, albeit vague, why is it on my metronomes?
    – Tim
    Mar 31, 2017 at 15:55
  • So what about counting 32nd and 64th notes? Apr 1, 2017 at 21:49
  • @NabeelRasheed see the answers to music.stackexchange.com/questions/9530/… May 13, 2022 at 3:28

3 Answers 3

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Andante means at a walking pace, Con means with and Moto means movement. So it basically means... At a walking pace with movement.

So you would probably have a slight accent on the strong parts of beats and then no accent on the down beats as to accentuate the idea of movement. A slightly more loud upbeat followed by a slightly softer down-beat. It should just have a general effect of movement at a not brisk pace.

That would be my interpretation if I ever saw such a character indication for a guitar score, the piano players in the audience here may have a view more specific to the piano.

And take note Andante con moto is a character indication, not a tempo marking.

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Andante con moto isn't an exact tempo in b.p.m. It's a vague (on purpose) idea of how a tempo can be arrived at. Listen to several recordings of that movement, and you'll realise they are not all at the same speed.

The metronome can be set to whatever you require. With 3/4, it can work so that each click represents one crotchet, or a beat. With 3/8, the same can be used, although the 8s - quavers - are usually shorter, but not necessarily half of what a crotchet is in a different piece.Check b.p.m. at the top of the piece.You could even set it so that each crotchet is represented by 2 clicks.

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The core questions are:

1. At what tempo should the second movement of Beethoven's Fifth begin?
2. How should it be counted?


About Beethoven and tempo indications

At the time Beethoven composed the fifth symphony (1804–1808), the metronome had not yet been invented (1815).1,2 Although in 1817 he would go back and add metronome marking to his symphonies, at the time he composed the fifth, his attitude was that the metronome "is silly stuff; one must feel the tempos."3,4

This suggests that the tempo is genuinely up to the interpreter. In that case, it's worth asking a few experts what tempo they use.

What do various conductors do?

So what's the right tempo?

Based on the composers above, it seems that the questions comes down to whether one prefers to emphasize the andante end of things, in which case the tempo will be on the slower end of things, or the con moto, in which case the tempo will be a bit quicker. Even the marked tempo of 92bpm is worthy of consideration. It certainly fits the con moto bill.

In any case, Beethoven clearly intends this movement to allow for some relative calm after the excitement of the first, so any tempo must allow for that sense of being carried along gently.

How to count?

Consider that the 1 e & a counting pattern need not be strictly for sixteenth notes. Think of it as a way to count the quarter division of a beat. Thus, in 3/8 time, the 1 e & a would be applied to the 32nd notes — those being the fourth division of the basic eighth-note beat.

The movement contains no 64th notes, so they are not a concern.

What's the difference between 3/8 and 3/16 time when using a metronome.

There is no difference. As it only keeps the pulse, the metronome is only concerned with the numerator in the time signature and the bpm. At that level, 3/4, 3/8, 3/16, 3/32, 3/anything are all identical. The denominator relates to which notation corresponds to the pulse, so while it can have interpretive significance, once the tempo is chosen, the metronome reflects only that.


Notes

1Wikipedia entry for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

2"A Brief History of the Mechanical Metronome", by Charlene Kluegel, August 12, 2021

3"Reflections on Beethoven's metronome markings", by Martin Pearlman, n.d.

4Ibid. Emphasis mine.

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