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Repeats and Endings

This is a repeat sign. When you arrive at a repeat sign, go back and perform a section of music again. The section will be contained by a start repeat sign and an end repeat sign, as shown in the music below.

If there isn’t a start repeat sign, then repeat from the very beginning as in the example below. Notice that when a lower line of words are presented, then these are the words to be sung on the repeat.

Da Capo - "from the top"
al Fine - "to the end"

Many pieces repeat the beginning material at the end. Rather than writing out the music again, composer can write instructions at the end. This was a common practice in Italian Baroque opera where they used the expression “Da Capo” which literally means “from the head”- similar to our current expression “from the top.” “Da Capo Aria” was a popular form for songs in operas and oratorios throughout western Europe throughout the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods. This form continues to be used today, even though we do not necessarily use the term “Da Capo Aria.”

To know when to end the song, composers wrote the word “Fine,” which means “finish,” or “end,” above a double bar line. After performing the whole song, a singer repeats the beginning until the ”Fine” and then stop.

Da Segno - "from the sign"

Instead of repeating all the way back to the beginning, some pieces return back to some other place. D.S. stands for “Da Segno” which means “from the sign,” and indicates that the performer should go back to the sign (shown to the right).

“Da Segno” is often used to return to the beginning, but skip the introduction. Note the use of “Da Segno al Fine”in the example below.


Sometimes a large section of a piece is to be repeated, but the ending involves more music than was presented initially, or music that ends differently than it was the first time. These situations can use a coda. The coda sign, shown to the right, is used both to show where to skip from and to show the beginning of the coda.
A section that extends the ending may be referred to as a “coda,” even if it is not labeled “coda,” does not use the coda symbol or require jumping around in the printed music.

“da Capo al Coda”

A coda can be used with either da Capo or da Segno.

Repeats Inside Repeats

A piece of music can have both DS (or DC) al Coda and internal repeats. Figure out the path of the music in the example below, and then hit the button to check.

Sometimes the score has further instructions written above the staff, indicating how many times to repeat a section, or whether or not to follow the repeat sign when on the second playing of a da capo section. When a score becomes complicated with nested repeated sections and written instructions, performers have to figure out the path through the music. This path is sometimes called the “road map” for the piece.