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As I reach to the end of a piano piece, I see a ritardando right here, enter image description here

My question is how long an accel. or rit. last?

Looking at one webpage, it says the ritardando can be extended by a dashed horizontal line. I'm assuming the accel. or rit. only lasts for the measure it's marked on, but I have found nothing online that says so also.

  • " I'm assuming the accel. or rit. only lasts for the measure it's marked on" IIRC some notation software apps used to interpret it that way (and maybe they still do) - but that's just what some nameless computer programmer thinks it means, and the answers below are better advice. – user19146 Jun 11 '18 at 18:18
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The abbreviation rit. means either ritardando (slowing down) or ritenuto (immediately slower). (This ambiguity is why i never use the abbreviation rit.)

In the former case, the musical context would suggest slowing down over the remaining four bars, but as dwilli mentions your interpretation of the music will inform you. Equally, your interpretation may lead you to interpret the rit. as a ritenuto — slowing the tempo immediately — in which case you would maintain the new tempo until the end.

A rule of thumb that you can use here is that any tempo change lasts until it is countermanded. A rit., rall., allargando, accel., stringendo, etc. will last until the end of the extension line or until the next tempo marking: a tempo/Tempo Primo/etc. or setting a new tempo.

  • That is the rule of thumb, though note that classical pieces do not always follow it. For example, ritard. can be used without explicit a tempo to indicate a momentary slowing of tempo. This occurs in Schumann's Blumenstück, for instance. – Gooseberry Jun 17 '18 at 5:56
  • (Lest I cause confusion, I am commenting only on the "rule of thumb" itself. I do agree this particular rit. is probably intended to extend to the end of the piece.) – Gooseberry Jun 17 '18 at 6:07
  • That’s why I qualified it as a “rule of thumb” (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thumb) – Dean Ransevycz Jun 17 '18 at 8:12
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It's this kind of situation where you have to become a musician and not just be a player. When the instructions are vague you are given license to interpret them. Slow down in a way that expresses your musical understanding of the piece. Rely on your gut to tell you just how. You might slow down all the way to the end or you might slow down for two measures, depending on what sounds best to you. You might vary the deceleration of your speed if it suits the music.

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Coming to the end of the piece, I'd rit. gradually to the last note. Often rit. or accel. is followed by 'a tempo' when the original speed needs to be re-applied. That bar 67 sounds weird, and possibly is named wrongly!

  • Thanks for your feedback! For measure 67 I tried looking up the name of the chord and Cmaj7sus was the first thing a found. I decided to research more and I think it's a C Major 7th chord (no 3rd). – Magic_Apprentice Jun 11 '18 at 16:43
  • The C G B could be Cmaj7, but A isn't a sus note - D and F are those. – Tim Jun 11 '18 at 16:51
  • Sus means without the 3rd, so it's right, but it believe is should be followed by something. Often sus chords without 2nd or 4th are called sus5, and the A in the melody is a 6th. So the right name could be Cmaj7(13)sus5? Is this in the right order? – coconochao Jun 11 '18 at 18:50
  • @coconochao - sus means 3 is replaced by either 2 or 4 - the 3 is suspended. Never heard sus 5, although a 'chord' with only 1 and 5 is known as a 'power chord'. I really couldn't name it meaningfully. – Tim Jun 12 '18 at 5:53
  • Instead of a tempo also tempo primo or a completely new tempo indication would terminate the modification. – guidot Jun 12 '18 at 10:34
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The composer of this piece was fond of writing A7 chords with a Db instead of a C# - I don't think we can find any excuses for this not just being 'wrong'. He was not a meticulous notator. So I wouldn't agonise too much over his precise intention with the rit. He MIGHT have known the distinction between ritardando (slowing down) and ritenuto (immediately slower), and that ritardando is meaningless without an extention line, or perhaps a 'rit. al fine' to indicate duration. Do whichever you find most effective.

That chord isn't Cmaj7sus. If you wanted to include the A in the harmonic analysis I suppose it COULD be called Cmaj7(no3rd)(add6). But it's really just an incomplete Cmaj7 with an A in the melody. You ignore the A in your analysis of the preceding chord, I think you can ignore it again.

(The density of that passage shifts between 7, 6, 5 and 4 note chords. Do you find that effective, or a weakness?)

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