A Step By Step Music Publication
Step By Step Music © 2014 • (253) 304-
Sheet music isn’t always followed from beginning to end. It is common to have to repeat bars, go back to specific points, and skip ahead to others.
Repeat signs are used to repeat a specific section of music. They are made up of a thick bar line next to a thin bar line and two dots in the center of the staff. The dots face towards the section to be repeated. A repeat sign can be either a “start repeat” or an “end repeat.”
If an end repeat appears without a start repeat before it, the player is to go back to the beginning of the music and play it all again. The repeat is to be taken only one time unless otherwise specified. When the player reaches the end repeat for the second time they are to continue past it rather than repeating again.
Repeats – Example 1
In this example, the player plays the first four bars twice and then continues.
If a start repeat sign is shown, the player is to play until the end repeat, go back to the start repeat, and then continue.
Repeats – Example 2
In this example, the player plays up to and including bar 3, goes back to bar 2, and then continues playing through bar 4.
Sometimes the music is to be repeated, but with a variation on the end of the section. The music played the first time through is called the 1st ending, the second time through is the called the 2nd ending, and so on. The area of each ending is clearly marked and labeled as 1, 2, 3, etc.
Endings – Example 1
In this example the player plays to the end repeat in bar 4, then goes back to bar 1. On the second time through the player skips bar 4 (the first ending) and goes straight to bar 5 (the second ending).
Sometimes there will be more than two endings.
Endings – Example 2
In this example the player plays the repeated section four times: three times using endings 1 through 3, then skipping bar 4 and taking the 4th ending the 4th time.
Player’s Tip…Repeat Instructions
Repeat signs will sometimes come with instructions such as “play 3 times” or “repeat and fade.” “Play 3 times” may also appear as “3x.” “Repeat and fade” will appear at the end of a piece.
Double Bar Line
The double bar line does not change the way music is played, but is simply a marker for the end of a section such as a verse or a chorus. It does not instruct the player to repeat anything or play any differently.
Double Bar Line
Signs, Codas, and More
D.C., D.S., and codas are also tools used to specify repetition of specific sections of music. They will always appear above the staff.
D.C. al Fine
D.C. is an abbreviation for da capo, meaning “from the beginning,” and tells the player to go back to the beginning of the music. The instruction D.C. will be followed by further instruction such as al Fine (to the finish) or al Coda (to the coda). D.C. al fine means to go back to the beginning of the music and play to the instruction “fine” (pronounced “feen”) which signifies the end of the music.
In this example the player plays bars 1 through 4, goes back to the beginning, and ends the piece at the end of bar 2.
D.C. al Coda
A coda is this symbol:
The coda is used to identify exact points in the music. The instruction D.C. al Coda means to go back to the beginning, play to the instruction “To Coda,” and then skip ahead to the coda symbol. This is called “taking the coda.”
Let’s talk through this example:
Player’s Tip…Skipping the Coda
The first time you come across “To Coda” in a piece of music you are to ignore it. After you see a D.C. or D.S. and go back to the beginning or to the sign, THEN you take the coda.
D.S. al Coda
D.S. is an abbreviation for dal segno, meaning “from the sign,” and tells the player to go back to the sign.
This is what the sign looks like:
D.S. is also followed by an instruction such as al fine or al coda. D.S. al Coda means to go back to the sign, play to the instruction “To Coda,” and then jump forward in the music to the coda symbol.
Think of D.S. just like D.C., except instead of going back to the beginning, you go back to a specific point marked by the sign. The sign will always appear on top of the staff and at the beginning of a measure.
Let’s talk through this example:
Play bars 1 through 6
Go back to the sign in bar 3 (D.S.)
Play bars 3 and 4, then take the coda
Take the coda by skipping to bar 7 and continue
Player’s Tip…Take the Repeat Signs, again?
When you go back to the beginning or to the sign per a D.C. or D.S., you should follow all repeats and endings just like the first time. Sometimes after a D.C. or D.S. you will be given the instruction “skip repeats,” in which case the repeats will be ignored.
Coda: This symbol: Used to mark specific points to skip ahead to in sheet music.
D.C. (da capo): Italian for “from the head,” or “from the beginning.”
D.C. al Fine: Go back to the beginning and play to the end of the piece, which is notated by the word “fine.”
D.C. al Coda: Go back to the beginning, play to the instruction “To Coda,” and skip ahead to the coda.
D.S. (dal segno): Italian for “from the sign.”
D.S. al Coda: Go back to the sign, play to the instruction “To Coda,” and jump to the coda.
Endings: Variations on the end of a repeated section.
Fine: Pronounced “feen.” Signifies the end of a piece of music.
Repeat signs: Symbols placed on the bar line to specify a section of music to be repeated.
Repeats and Codas