What Is a Rit in Music?

Rit. is an abbreviation for ritardando, which is an Italian musical term meaning to slow down. When you see rit. on a sheet of music, it’s telling you to play the music more slowly than the previous tempo.

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What is a Rit?

In music, a rit. (also ritard., ritardando) is a temporary change in tempo that usually occurs near the end of a phrase, and its purpose is to slow down the final few measures. It can be notated with the Italian terms rit. or ritard., or simply by writing the word “ritardando” above the affected portion of the measure. A gradual return to the original tempo is indicated by writing “rit.” over the last few measures of the piece, or sometimes by simply writing “A Tempo” (at tempo).

What is a Rit in Music?

A rit, or ritard, is a musical term indicating a gradual lessening of tempo. Rits are usually notated with the Italian term ritardando (abbreviated rit.) or the symbol, which looks like a slightly curved line with two dots above it.

Rits can be used to create suspense or to prepare the listener for a change, such as a crescendo. They can also be used as a transition between sections of a piece, or to mark the end of a piece.

When you see rit written in music, it’s telling you to slow down gradually. How much you slow down is up to you; the composer may have indicated an approximate tempo, but it’s ultimately your interpretation.

A good way to practice nailing the timing of rits is by using a metronome. Set the metronome to tick at quarter notes (four clicks per measure) and start playing your piece. As you come to the rit marking, begin slowing the tempo by moving the metronome’s lever one “notch” at a time until you reach the desired tempo.

The History of Rit

Rit (or rithm), from the Greek word ῥυθμός (rhythmos), is a frequent command found in music scores, directing the musician to play the immediately preceding notes again. It is found primarily in vocal music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, although it continued to be used into the 20th century. The term is also spelled ryt or rite.

The purpose of a ritardando or rallentando (sometimes ritenuto) is to slow down the tempo of a piece of music. A ritardando (or ritenuto) is indicated by writing the word above or below the affected notes, while a rallentando is sometimes indicated by writing words such as “rit.”, “ritard.”, or “rall.” (short for ritardando). Sometimes only the symbol ♩ is used below or above the notes. A gradual return to the original tempo may be indicated by writing “rit.” or “ritard.” a second time, or by writing “a tempo”.

How to Use a Rit

In music, a rit (or ritardando) is a temporary change in tempo, usually lasting for just a few measures. This technique is indicated by a symbol in the music, usually a dashed line or the words “ritardando” (abbreviated as “rit.”) or “ritenuto” (“riten.”)

There are two ways to use a rit:

-As a way to gradually slow down the tempo of a piece, creating a sense of tension or drama
-As a way to emphasize certain beats or chord changes

Rits can be used for either dramatic or musical effect, and can be combined with other tempo changes such as accelerando (increasing the tempo) or fermata (holding a note for longer than usual).

The Different Types of Rits

Ritardando (rit.), sometimes called a rit, is an indication to gradually slow down. It is one of the most common tempo markings in music and looks like a pie wedge:

![ritardando example](https://www.musictheorysite.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Ritardando-Example-300x187.png)

A rit can be marked with either an abbreviation (rit.) or a symbol (⇋). Sometimes, both are used: rit.⇋ or ritard.⇋. The word ritardando means “retarding” in Italian; retard is an English cognate with the same meaning.

A rit can be used at the beginning of a piece, as in the beginning of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major:

![Prelude No. 1](https://www.musictheorysite.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Prelude-No.-1-in-C-Major-BWV-846-Measure-1-300x200.png)

…or in the middle of a piece, as in measures 38–39 of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata:

![Pathétique Sonata](https://www.musictheorysite.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/PathetiqueSonataOpus13Mvt3MM3839NoRitTempo-e1562464834812-300x150.png)

…or at the end of a piece, as in measure 115 of Chopin’s Revolutionary Étude:

![Revolutionary Étude](https://www.musictheorysite.com/wp-content

The Benefits of Using a Rit

There are many benefits to using a rit, or ritardando, in music. For one, it can create a sense of suspense or anticipation, which can be particularly effective in slow movements or ballads. Additionally, it can add a touch of drama or pathos to a piece. And finally, it can simply provide a moment of repose in an otherwise fast-paced or technically demanding work.

Rits are also an important tool for conductors and performers in terms of shaping the overall arc of a piece. By slowing down at certain points, conductors can emphasize certain sections or give the performers a chance to catch their breath before moving on to the next section. Similarly, performers often use rits to create seamless transitions between different sections of a piece.

The drawbacks of Using a Rit

While a rit can be an effective means of underscoring a mood or carving out additional time for a difficult passage, it also has some potential drawbacks that should be considered before using this marking. Perhaps most significantly, a rit can throw off the performers’ timing, particularly if it’s not written clearly or if the tempo change is significant. It can also be disruptive to the flow of the music and make it difficult for the performers to stay together. In some cases, a rit might also make it difficult for the audience to follow what’s going on.

How to make your own Rit

A ritard (or rit) is a musical term meaning to slow down the tempo. It’s indicated by the mark rit. at the beginning of a section of music, or by a slur over several notes.

Rits are usually used for two reasons: either to prepare for a change in tempo, or to create a sense of climax at the end of a phrase.

Here’s how you can use a rit to create interest and tension in your music:

1. Start with a fast tempo, and then gradually slow down as you approach the ritardando. This will make the change in tempo more noticeable and create a sense of suspense.

2. Use a long, gradual ritardando to create a sense of closure at the end of aphrase or piece of music. This will give your listener time to reflect on what they’ve just heard.

3. Use a series of short, quick rits throughout your music tocreate an agitated, restless feel. This can be effective in settings where there is physical movement, such as dancing or exercising.

The Future of Rit

Rit is a company that makes a performance tracking app for musicians. The app allows users to track their practice sessions, set goals, and monitor their progress.

Rit was founded in 2012 by musicians Mark Johnson and Ben Stauch. Johnson is a classically trained pianist who has performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Stauch is a jazz bassist who has performed with the Mike Stern Band and the Randy Brecker Quintet.

The app is currently available for iPhone and iPad, and a version for Android devices is in development. Rit has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine.


In summary, a rit is a musical term that refers to a gradual increase or decrease in tempo. This change can be used to create tension and release, or to simply add interest to a piece of music. Rits are often used in classical and Jazz music, but can be found in any genre. If you want to add a rit to your own playing, try experimenting with different speeds and see what sounds best to you.

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