Thursday, June 8th, 2023

Repeat Words – Music Theory – Part 15c



A Tonal System

Scales in Music – a Tonal system

Music Theory Section – Level 1

Repeat Words – Part 15c

Repeat Words – Music Theory – Part 15c is the next article in the overall series Scales in Music – A Tonal System and it is in level 1 of the Music Theory Section.


This article will review the words used in music creation and notation which are placed over the staff. They are used to cause a repetition or replay of music preceding the markings. The symbols for the Coda, Dal Segno and Finale will also be reviewed. These words and symbols are quite similar as to instructing the performance flow of the music. They are also similar in nature to the start and end repeats as well as the first and second endings. They are also an important part of music theory in general.

Prerequisite Articles

Again I would remind you that this article is part of the mini-series about repeats as used in music as related to music theory. This is the third part of that four-part mini-series and it is fairly easy to understand. To get the bigger picture of repeats and the various symbols used to affect the desired music flow and to navigate throughout the composition, it is best and recommended to review or to treat all four articles as one unified concept, that of using repeats in music.

Article Links

Part 15a is about the repeat symbols, the start repeat and  end repeats which are the basic navigational tools  necessary to know about.

Part 15b extends the study to include information, descriptions and use explanations about the first and second endings.

Part 15c is this part about the words and associated symbols used to navigate throughout a music composition.

Part 15 d is the next part of this mini-series and we would also suggest looking ahead and following through to get a total understanding of the concept of using repeats in music. Part 15d is about repeating musical rest, notes and measures.

In total these four articles are inclusive of the majority of the repeats used in music composition. They are a necessary and vital part of music theory and of music notation.

The Symbols

There are two main symbols which direct the performer according to the instructions provided through the words associated to the symbols. We will be reviewing the words in just a minute.

First, let’s take a look at symbols and first up is the coda sign as shown below.

Music Section Symbol - Coda

Description – The symbol is basically an oval with its height being the longer side of it. Crossing in the middle are two perpendicular lines which reach just outside of the outer boundary of the oval as shown.

Music Navigation - Coda

Placement – The coda sign is placed above the staff and over the vertical measure line. The coda sign can be placed anywhere in a composition however it is usually placed at the end of a section or phrase of music.

Use – The symbol is used to direct the performer to go to the Coda and continue through to the end or as directed by the associated word instructions within the composition. The symbol is used as a stop and navigational device.  The location of the word instructions associated to it directs the performer to repeat from a specific location within the score and more specifically, from the location of the Dal Segno sign.

D.S. over the Staff

Description – The Dal Segno sign is shown above. Its design is based upon the letter “S”. It is its main feature. The “S” is leaning to the left. Perpendicular to the middle of the Dal Segno main feature is a short thin line leaning to the right. On either side of the intersection of the “S” and the short thin line are two dots one on top of the thin line and on the left side of the “S”. The other is place under the thin line and on the opposing side of the “S”.

D.S. over the Staff

Placement – The Dal Segno sign is placed above the staff  and over a measure line. It can be placed anywhere within the score however it is usually placed at the end of a section or phrase of music. The symbol is used as a stop and the location designated by the symbol placement is the location within the score. The word instructions associated to it redirect the performer to repeat from the location of the Dal Segno sign.

Music Navigation Symbols - D.S. and Coda

Both of these symbols take their lead from the words described below. The words are generally placed at or near a section or phrase of music or at or near the end of the work.

Repeat Words – Music Theory

There are several words used in music to cause or to affect a redirection of the flow of music on a larger scale than one or two measure for example. Usually the redirection is over many measures, sections or an entire composition. In particular these four words are most common to be in Italian, such as; Da Capo, Dal Segno, Fine and Coda. Now that was the easy part.

Music Navigation - Words


Each of the words has a specific meaning in music making and notation. The navigational affect is similar to other repeat symbols such as the start and end repeats. The exception is the Fine symbol in so far as the Fine is the actual ending. Each is an important instruction to the performer to make a major  or larger leap within a composition. The redirection instruction to the performer can and often does cause navigating to an entirely different place in the score.

D.C. – Da Capo simply means to repeat from the beginning.

D.S. – Dal Segno means to repeat from the sign.

Fine – Simply means the end.

D.C. al Fine – Da Capo al Fine means to repeat from the beginning to the end of the composition or the Fine sign.

D.S. al Fine – Dal Segno al Fine means to repeat from the sign to the end or the Fine sign.

Coda – The Coda is a section at the end of a musical composition.

D.C. al Coda – means to repeat from the beginning to the coda sign and then skip to the coda.

D.S. al Coda – means to repeat from the Dal Segno sign to the coda sign and then skip to the coda.

Comments About Repeats in Music

1) As you can tell by the meaning of each of the words, symbols, ideas and concepts behind repeats in general and even those devices in this document, that they provide very important instructions to redirect, in a major way, the overall flow of a composition. They are not simply redirecting a measure or two they are redirecting the performer to an entirely different section of music. If you think about sound as the foundational aspect of all of my papers then you must have had at least a small glimpse at the significance of the navigational choices we have presented thus far. It is my hope that you have also found some understanding as to their meaning, use and further, the possibilities they open up for a composer of music.

2) The End Repeat, as described in Part 15b can redirect the performer to the start of the piece. So can the words and phrases described here. However, the significant difference between them is that when the words and phrases are used they point the reader or performer to a specific location within a musical score, especially when used in longer works where broader leaps are involved, more measures, and therefore they become more significant as your compositions increase in length. These symbols and words are used frequently in music and so it is vital to learn them.

3) The Coda adds an entire new idea to making music. Moving beyond what would otherwise be a final ending, the coda can extend the work, if necessary, to include an entirely new phrase or section of music, one that comes after the final major section of the composition and before the actual final ending. A final crescendo comes to mind.

4) The various repeats, discussed in these papers, add to our ever expansive body of resources to an already abundant arsenal of tools, all of which are useful in the creation of beautiful noise. It is through the grace and elegance of your compositional skills and your ability to use those tools of music notation, in a unique and exquisite fashion, that you can become an excellent composer creating great and excellent music that will stand the test of time and maybe even the test of culture.

5) The Fine is the omega of music. It is the end. I’ve heard it said that all things  shall one day come to an end regardless of how great they become. So it is when you come to the end of a composition that you feel maybe in some ways proud and excited over your accomplishments or you feel a little like something dear was lost, maybe there’s a middle ground. Nonetheless, the Fine does close the music and the thoughts behind that which made it manifest.

This concludes Repeat Words – Music Theory – Part 15c.

Up Next

To continue and to conclude our mini-series about repeats we will be reviewing the symbols used to repeat notes and rests. These tools assist the composer to create repeatable notes, rests, a measure of music or several measures of music without having to write them out in full. They are sort of like shorthand in music notation. The article’s title is Repeats – Notes and Rests – Part 15d.

Please proceed to Repeats – Notes and Rests – Part 15d


Mini Series Links

To return to the Music Theory – Level 1 directory for the article listings within the series, please proceed to Music Theory Section – Level 1 – Series Introduction – Part 10.

To continue onto Music Theory – Level 2 directory for the article listings within the series, please proceed to Music Theory Section – Level 2 – Series Introduction – Part 20

To proceed to Acoustics of Music directory for the listings within the mini-series, please proceed to Acoustics of Music – Part 1 – Series Introduction.

Note: All graphics were produced using Sibelius Music Software by Avid Technologies.

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