So I got this inspirational idea for composing a piece from a fellow composer:

His life was good, a girlfriend, friends and a nice family; then out of nowhere, he loses the love of his life for another person. Then he prefers to be alone most of the time, losing his good life (friends and family) gradually. When he remembers, he sometimes lives in a fake happiness, and sometimes he realises the bitter reality.

I decided to have emotional contrast determine the sections of this piece more than modulations. I see 2 vastly different emotions being expressed in this paragraph, those being:

  • Heartbreak and Melancholy
  • Happiness

I decided to use minor to represent the heartbreak and melancholy and major to represent the happiness. And, this may be a bit of Chopin influence here, but the heartbreak itself I'm representing with the tension between scale degrees 6 and 5. Scale degree 6 also happens to be the seventh of vii°7 so why not use vii°7 to add more tension than scale degree 6 alone and then resolve it to the tonic minor? And to add even more tension and heartbreak, why not add dynamic changes between forte and piano? So this is basically what the heartbreak moments in my piece look like:

Right Hand: Bb    | A    | Bb    | A    |
Left Hand:  C#°7  | Dm   | C#°7  | Dm   |
Dynamics:   f     | p    | f     | p    |

At least one of these things holds true in every heartbreak moment in my piece. The heartbreak and melancholy also has a pedaled arpeggio bass. It is currently being written in 4/4, though I'm wondering if I should write it in 12/8. Wait, what would a double dotted half note in 4/4 be in 12/8 assuming that it is still 3.5 beats? Some kind of triplet or what? Oh well, that's a topic for a different question.

As for the happiness, I thought of representing it with not only a move to a major key after wallowing in the minor, but also moving from 4 beats to 3 beats and changing to a faster tempo in a waltz rhythm. So like an Andante to Allegro change.

I know how to get across that the Allegro is to be joyful via marking the tempo. Allegro giocosso is what I would use for that since giocosso literally means joyfully. However, I don't know how I should get across that the Andante is to be melancholic and heartbreaking via tempo. The only tempo descriptor that I know means that the piece is to be melancholic is lamentoso, literally meaning lamenting.

I'm not sure that lamenting is the proper term here though to describe the melancholic Andante. Isn't lamenting like extreme melancholy, like the melancholy a person experiences after the death of someone? In the inspirational idea, it's more like depression than grieving, the melancholy is. I know I could just write Andante and then Molto expressivo, but what if that gets across the wrong emotion? I could see that easily being misinterpreted as peaceful and not melancholic if I just use Molto expressivo for the emotion. So I'm wanting to represent it in the tempo to make sure it doesn't get emotionally misinterpreted.

Is there a different tempo descriptor for melancholy that fits this piece better than lamentoso? Or is Andante lamentoso the best I can do to get across that the Andante is supposed to be melancholic and heartbreaking?

  • Lamentoso is Lamenting as you said. Try con dolore. Maybe this is not as strong as u'd want you Tempo Marking. But I think this will do. Maybe It's strong enough, Actually depends on what your Music is Telling. Mar 31, 2020 at 2:20
  • Thanks. I didn’t know if there was another tempo marking that implies melancholy or not. Con dolore means "in pain" in Italian I think. And melancholy, especially that of losing someone is painful, sometimes even physically. So Andante con dolore for the melancholic minor key sections and Allegro giocoso for the happy major key sections. Yeah, I think that will work.
    – Caters
    Mar 31, 2020 at 2:31
  • Dolore is Sadness in italian, Dolour is sadness in English too. Mar 31, 2020 at 3:51
  • I've seen "mesto" in tempo indications before...but it means "sad", not necessarily melancholy. The strict translation would be "malinconico".
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 31, 2020 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


Here are some options. The definitions of these terms seem to overlap a lot. I don't know the nuances:

con dolore: with sorrow.

dolente: doleful, sorrowful.

dolore: grief.

doloroso: sorrowful.

lacrimoso or lagrimoso: tearfully, sadly.

lamentando or lamentoso: lamenting, mournfully.

lugubre: lugubrious, mournful.

malinconico: melancholic

mesto: mournful, sad.

triste: sad; sorrowful.

tristement: sadly.

These terms can be combined with different tempo indications but since this topic is about an Andante indication I have found some interesting YouTube videos with pieces of music where some of these terms are combined with the word Andante:

Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 The Death of Åse (Åses død) - Andante doloroso:

Tedesco Quintette: 2 Andante Mesto:

Dieter Acker (1940-2006) - "Zwischen Tag und Traum" (1988) / II - Misterioso, Andante dolente:

Sconforto: Andante triste (Romanza):

Sonata Nr. 4 in A Minor: 3. Andante lugubre · Paul Lang:

Franz Liszt: Andante lagrimoso - "Harmonies poétiques et religieuses" (audio + sheet music) [Thurzó]:

Saint-Saëns, Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, op.28 (Andante malinconico; Allegro ma non troppo)


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