In a recent lesson, one of my students needed to work with the metronome to develop a steadier pulse, not just at one slow tempo, but at all the metronome markings on the road from slow to full tempo. And although I'm usually quite verbose in lessons, the correct choice of words left me tongue-tied.
Of all my daily musical decisions, this is one that has always gnawed at me with no clear resolution: when you're referring to more than one tempo, do you say "tempos" or "tempi"?
This is a tricky one for American and Canadian musicians. On the one hand, you can say "tempos", but there will be many who view you as a boorish, uncultured North American who never learned the refined ways of music school. On the other hand, you can say "tempi", but all illusions of coolness will be shattered as you are perceived as a middle-aged effete, pretentious Eurosnob. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground.
My solution? I attached the following photo to my student's lesson notes:
What do you say? Tempos or tempi?