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I'm working towards ABRSM grade 5 music theory. In the Music Theory in Practice workbook there is a piece of music marked "Poco andante", with the following question: "Suggest a suitable metronome mark for this piece".

The definition ABRSM give for "poco" is "a litte", and for "andante" is "at a medium ('walking') speed".

So I interpret "Poco andante" as "at a little medium speed".

I could get my head around a little fast or a little slow, but a little medium?

How should this be interpreted?

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    Related question: music.stackexchange.com/questions/53339/… – Tim H Oct 16 '18 at 14:35
  • How it should be interpreted depends quite a bit on when it was written (as suggested by Tim's answer), perhaps on where it was written, and probably on by whom it was written. Can you add any of this information to the question? – phoog Oct 16 '18 at 17:13
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Yes, 'poco andante' defies literal analysis, doesn't it! And if you Google it you'll find plenty of examples of composers using it, but precious few definitions.

THIS explores the subject, but reaches no conclusion.

It's a mischievous question for a Grade V theory paper. I suggest you answer it as if the 'poco' wasn't there.

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Actually poco andante is most sensibly used modifying another speed indication, so Adagio, poco andante could indicate make it a bit faster than Adagio but the opposite direction from Allegro/Allegretto would equally work. If your example misses the reference point, you could try to deduce one from the title or form of the piece, e.g. a menuet is more on the slow side, other dances or marches also suggest a default speed.

Without any reference the numerically lower Andante range of the metronome (perhaps 80) is the best guess.

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One of my metronomes - 150+ yrs old - says andante is 120-150bpm. Another quotes 76-108.Poco means, as you say, a little, maybe a little less. So a reasonable answer will be at the bottom of the tempos, say 100bpm.

Tempo words were meant to be vague, thus the margin for each. To allow for individual interpretations of performance speed. From the info. on my metronomes, vague isn't exactly the right word!

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    I think 120-150bpm is very fast for an andante! That's not a walking speed, it's almost running. – Tim H Oct 16 '18 at 14:29
  • I think usually the second range you cited is a more agreed-upon standard for andante. – user45266 Oct 16 '18 at 17:14
  • @user 45266 - the reason I quoted what my first metronome said was andante is that it would have been used closer to the period when these sort of tempo marks were more commonly used. (over 150 years ago). – Tim Oct 16 '18 at 17:20
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    @TimH - remember, it was 150 years ago. legs were shorter then... – Tim Oct 16 '18 at 17:22
  • @Tim Oh, really? I didn;t know that. That's interesting! – user45266 Oct 16 '18 at 17:23

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