Accelerando is a term used to indicate a piece of music should be played with gradually increasing speed (or tempo). It’s a technique that can help to build tension or create a sense of urgency within a piece of music, and it therefore has the opposite effect of rallentando.
Italian for ‘accelerating’, accelerando is often abbreviated to ‘accel’ on a score. It may also be accompanied by a dotted or dashed line underneath the section of the stave (or staff) to which the instruction applies.
When used intermittently throughout a piece of music, accelerando is also likely to be followed on the score by the term ‘a tempo’, which indicates that the piece’s original tempo should be resumed.
Examples of accelerando
A great example of the use of accelerando in classical music is Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt. In this piece, the same theme is repeated, gradually getting faster and faster until the crescendo, creating a dramatic impact.
Top image by Getty Images