In the solo voice here:

Solo voice

a ritardando shows up on beat four of the measure, but there is only a whole note in the measure. If I attach the ^\markup{\italic rit.} to that whole note, the ritardando shows up on beat one. How do I put it on beat four?

2 Answers 2


Barring any more complicated notation decisions—like slurs, ties, expressions, or polyphonic voicing—two much simpler, easier ways to implement this than the current answer would be the following:

  1. ees1^\markup \italic \translate #'(3.7 . 0) "rit."
  2. ees1*3/4 s4^\markup \italic "rit."

For number 1, it’s a matter of attaching the markup to the note, then shifting it to the right some arbitrary distance. (See A.11.2 Align)

For number 2, it’s a matter of scaling durations, using spacer rests, and attaching the markup to that spacer rest; specifically, tell LilyPond to assign the whole note 3/4’s of its duration value, and use the remaining 1/4 of the measure to insert a spacer rest and attach the markup there. (See 1.2.1 Writing rhythms)

  • Nice. Number 1 doesn't look so great because of the hard-coded horizontal adjustment. This will fail if anything about the layout changes the horizontal length of the measure. Number 2 is new to me. I never knew exactly what R1*3/8 was doing, and I thought it had to do with "whole" measure rests. Your answer is suggestive and very helpful! I guess \translate only works on markup? I would like to use it on the other question I just posted :-D Mar 22 at 19:04

Create an invisible second voice. Instead of

ees1^\markup{\italic rit.}}

which puts the ritardando on beat one, use

<< { \oneVoice ees1 } \\ { s2. 4^\markup{\italic rit.}} >>


  • << starts a "simultaneous" section and >> ends it; they can be used any time a music expression is expected.
  • Inside the first { } is the upper voice of the simultaneous music expression.
  • \oneVoice is used to write the part as though there is only one voice. The default in this "simultaneous" context is to use \voiceOne in the top part which will make all the stems up. Since we're only using two voices to create an invisible voice in voice two, we should typeset voice one as though there is only one voice.
  • \\ divides the top and bottom voices.
  • Inside the second { } is the lower voice.
  • s2. creates a "spacer" (that is, an invisible note) the length of a dotted half note.
  • 4 creates the same kind of note ("spacer" in this case) with the length of one quarter note.
  • ^ means "place something above this note" which is on the fourth beat of the measure.
  • \markup{\italic rit.}} does what it appears to do! (You can read more about markup in the Lilypond docs: https://lilypond.org/doc/v2.23/Documentation/notation/formatting-text

The result:

enter image description here

Of course, this trick works with other types of notation, too, like expression marks. In the second bar of that screen shot, see that there is a one beat crescendo followed by a one beat decrescendo on top of dotted quarter, eighth notes.

  • 1
    The \\ isn't necessary. And if you remove it then you won't need \voiceOne because you won't be creating any unnecessary extra voices. Aug 8 at 15:01

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