Memory Matching Tempo Game and Reference Sheet

By Hoffman Academy Team
Memory Matching Tempo Game for Beginning Musicians.

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Hoffman Academy Level: Units 7+

Play this memory matching game to learn the names and definitions of each tempo marking.

What are tempo markings in music?

Tempo markings in music let the musician know how fast or slow to play a piece of music. They are important because the same piece of music can sound very different when it is played at a faster or slower tempo. Imagine a very fast piece like “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov played slowly. It wouldn’t sound the same at all, would it?


 Or can you imagine what would happen if a slow, beautiful piece like this “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber was played very quickly? It wouldn’t be able to evoke the same lovely, sad and thoughtful mood. 

Tempo markings allow composers to let musicians know the speed at which a piece should be played to create the mood or tell the story that the composer originally intended. 

What are the most common musical tempo terms?

Starting with the slowest tempo marking, these are the terms you’ll see most often to indicate tempo in music:

  • Largo
  • Adagio
  • Andante
  • Moderato
  • Allegretto
  • Allegro
  • Presto
  • Prestissimo

All of these terms are Italian words. This is because much of our modern Western music tradition was developed in Italy. 

Largo means wide in Italian. It’s a very slow and stately tempo.

Adagio means slowly in Italian. It’s slow, but not as slow as Largo!

Andante means “to go” in Italian. It’s often referred to as a walking tempo.

Moderato means easy, relaxed, or leisurely in Italian. It’s a little faster than Andante, but still an easy-going pace.

Allegretto means “light and graceful” in Italian. When you see this tempo marking, play the music moderately fast.

Allegro means “happy, cheerful, and joyous” in Italian. It indicates a fast tempo.

Presto means “quick” or “early” in Italian. It’s even faster than Allegro.

Prestissimo means “very soon” in Italian. When you see this tempo, play the song as fast as you possibly can!

You can learn more about tempo markings here.

How to play this memory matching game

  • Print all cards on card stock and cut along the lines.
  • Shuffle cards and lay out with the word side down.
  • One or more players takes turns trying to match the correct term card with its definition. Turn over two cards at a time and see if they match. If they match, the player keeps the cards and tries to find another match. If they don’t match, the player turns them over and lets the next player take a turn.
  • Refer to the tempo term reference sheet to check for the correct definition.

Sample game play: 

  1. Player 1 turns over two cards and sees that they are “Largo” and “Moderato.” These are two tempo terms and don’t match. Player 1’s turn is over.
  2. Player 2 turns over two cards and sees that they are “Fast” and “Andante.” This is a tempo term and a speed, but they don’t match. Player 2’s turn is over.
  3. Player 1 turns over two cards and sees that they are “Slow” and “Very Slow.” These are two speeds and so they don’t match. Player 1’s turn is over.
  4. Player 2 remembers that “Largo,” which means “Very Slow,” was turned over earlier in the game. Player 2 turns over two cards they have already seen, “Very Slow” and “Largo.” These are a match so player 2 takes these cards and keeps them. Then Player 2 turns over another two cards and the game continues.

Are matching games actually useful for memory?

Yes! Memory matching tempo games are not only fun, they develop a wide range of cognitive skills. Some of these skills include short term memory, language, concentration, and visual recognition, plus social skills like taking turns and graciously dealing with both success and disappointment when the game is played with a partner or a group. 

There’s an added bonus when a memory matching tempo game incorporates information that the player needs to know in order to match up the cards, such as the tempo terms and their definitions in this game. The fun and challenge of playing a game motivates the player to think about the information they’re learning. They’re also motivated to learn the terms and their definitions because it makes it easier to find the matches. Playing the game also involves repetition, which is important for creating lasting knowledge and memories. In playing a memory match game, players will see each term and its definition several times before all the matches are made.

It’s always easier to learn something new when it is presented in a game rather than simply having to memorize it. Give the tempo memory match game a try and see for yourself!

Don’t forget to use the information in this post or on our free Tempo Reference Sheet to make sure you’re matching the tempo terms correctly as you learn.

Download your tempo memory match game and start playing and learning now!

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