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The Basics of Rhythm (Part 3)

Changing In Speed

We can speed up or slow down within a piece of music using certain Italian words. These override the Tempo until they are are cancelled out by an "A Tempo". For example:

Ritardano (usually abbreviated as "Rit.") and Rallentando (usually abbreviated as "Rall.") mean to gradually slow down. The opposite is Accelerando (usually abbreviated as "Accel."), which means to gradually speed up.

These words can be modified by two other Italian words: "Poco" (meaning "a little") and "Molto" (meaning "a lot").

So, if you see "Poco Rit." underneath some Notes in a piece of sheet music, it means to slow down a bit as you sing or play them. How slow is determined by the context.


Rather than write sections over and over again, we can use various symbols to show what should be repeated and how.

Repeat Measure sign
Ways to repeat a section (Barline w/ 2 Dots, Coda, First & Second Ending)
Ostinato, Vamp


Fermata (i.e.: hold indefinitely)
Fade Out

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