Repeated sections in written music (Part 2)

This is intended for members of our choir who are not familiar with some of the indications in the written music that we use.

We usually start at the top of the 1st page and end at the bottom of the last page, but sometimes a composer will want us to change this sequence.  As before, this is merely to save on rewriting long sections of notes.  Composers use a few symbols to communicate their instructions to us.  (In the diagrams below, the red arrows show how we would start reading the music, and the blue arrows show how this will change as a result of the instructions.)


This is an abbreviation for the Italian phrase Da Capo.  It means “from the head” and tells us “go back to the beginning and start all over again.”

If the D.C. is at the end of the last page, it is obvious that that is where we will end.  If the D.C. is somewhere in the middle of a page, more instructions are needed to tell us when to sing the notes that come after it. (More on this later.)

da capo


This is another Italian word (pronounced in an Italian way, not the English way).  It means “the end.”

After redirecting us all over the page, the composer might want us to stop somewhere other than at the end of the page.  Fine tells us “this is the end”.  It is often combined with D.C. to form D.C. al Fine, meaning “go back to the beginning and stop at the word Fine.”

DC al fine


Another Italian word. This one means “the tail” (opposite of the head) and refers to a section of music towards the end of the page.

The symbol coda is often used in conjunction with the word coda.  Earlier, I mentioned that not all the bars in a repeated section are repeated.  Coda is used to indicate a similar behaviour.

D.C. al Coda

This means “go back to the beginning, but keep an eye out for more jumping around”.  The start of the jumping will be marked by al coda (meaning “to the coda”) and the point to jump to is marked by coda. Instead of the words, both al coda and coda might be replaced with the symbol coda .

dc al coda

D.S instead of D.C.

D.C. is the abbreviation for Da Capo and tells us to go back to the beginning.  D.S. is very similar.  It stands for Dal Segno.  It also tells us to go back, but back to a specific point in the music rather than to the very beginning.  That point is marked with the sign segno .  Dal Segno means “from the sign.”  As for D.C., the same combinations with al Fine and al Coda are possible with D.S.

D.S. al Fine

Jump from the words D.S. al Fine to segno , and then carry on until the word Fine.  Stop there.

dal segno al fine

D.S. al Coda

Jump from the words D.S. al Coda to the segno, but keep your eyes open for the words al Coda.  After al Coda jump to the coda.

ds al coda


2 thoughts on “Repeated sections in written music (Part 2)

  1. obrigada, gostei da explicação também! boa!


    Posted by Claudia Priscila Perruzzetto | 6 May 2020, 2:11 am
  2. Thanks Mike, for this very useful and reader-friendly explanation. Hope all the members of the choir will take a look!


    Posted by Ruth Coggin | 28 September 2014, 4:41 pm

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