I know that there are many terms that can be used to talk about the tempo of a piece of music but what words are there for change in tempo?

The only ones that I can think of are:

  • Accelerando
  • Rallentando
  • Ritardando
  • Calando
  • Stringendo
  • Smorzando
  • Rubato

Are these all correct in regards to changes in tempo and are there any others?


They're all correct, though some have meanings beyond just speed. Smorzando means slower AND softer - 'dying away'.

Meno mosso, piu mosso, ritenuto refer to sudden rather than gradual changes in speed. This can cause confusion as both ritenuto (sudden) and ritardando (gradual) are abbreviated to 'rit.' The only clue may be the presence or absence of an extension line. A gradual change has an extent, a sudden one doesn't.

  • I've seen so many "rit."'s interpreted as ritardandos that don't have extension lines. – Dekkadeci Jan 5 '19 at 16:08

There's a particularly common tempo change marking I'm surprised isn't in the OP: allargando. It marks a gradual slowing and broadening of the music. An interesting example is the optional, parenthesized allargando marking near the end of the C major section of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 3 in C Minor, which I've heard orchestras inconsistently follow (just like you'd expect).

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