I'm trying to recall if I ever came across such a piece that uses whole note = tempo, or 16th note = tempo.

To my recollection, I don't think I've seen the whole note before. As well, I have seen the eighth note being used commonly (perhaps implicitly), but I don't recall ever seeing the 16th note.

Also quick note: when I say implicitly, I mean the marking could be Largo, but has 16th notes for the melody. That would be an example of perhaps 8th note = tempo. Vice versa can also be considered for whole notes.

  • The 2nd movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is notated in 3/4 time and is wicked fast (I'd say dotted half note = 120 bpm is a realistic tempo for it), although I don't recall seeing a metronome marking for it before.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 28, 2019 at 8:29

1 Answer 1


According the Extremes of Conventional Music Notation list maintained by Donald Byrd:

Shortest duration for a tempo marking: Quintuplet 64th note = 75 in Stockhausen: Xi. Runner-up: 64th = 288 in Crumb: Madrigal no. 1, from Madrigals, Book IV (1971).

There's no record on that page for long notes in tempo markings, though it does mention at least one whole note tempo marking: Alkan: Etude No. 7 ("Symphonie, Finale") from Douze études dans tous les tons mineures, Op. 39 (1857), is marked whole note = 96, which incidentally also results in some of the shortest duration notes in performance. I'm pretty sure I've seen other works with a notated tempo for whole note, and perhaps even for dotted whole note (in a 3/2 meter felt in one).

And although I don't know if I have seen an example of a tempo marking, I've definitely seen literal transcriptions of Renaissance note values of things like 3/1 meter that are meant to be felt "in one," making the implicit "beat" at the level of the dotted breve.

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