Do you know the music symbol for repeat? This is- sadly- something I see done wrong- or at least underused- in many online tabs (not that it makes a difference to the accuracy of the tab…). I mean, why write 10 pages of music when you can use repeats and squeeze it into only three?!
There is actually more than one symbol- for different occasions. So here they are, in no particular order:
These are basically a set of barlines that tell you to repeat a section. One will be placed at the beginning of the section, and the other will be at the end.
For example, these four bars should be played twice:
Both are double barlines that are thicker than normal. Notice that the first repeat bar faces to the right, and the second faces to the left? This is to show that it’s the part in between them that is repeated.
Sometimes you might see “x3” or “x4” over the second repeat bar, which means that you play the section “3 times” or “4 times” in total.
IMPORTANT: it’s “4 times in total” and not “4 repeats” because “4 repeats” would actually be five times including the first time you play it (once through and then 4 repeats).
…but what if something has to be played twice (or more) with a slightly different ending each time?
Then we use repeat endings:
In the above example, you would play the music from the first through to the second repeat barline (the first time). Then you would go back to the first repeat barline, play the first two bars but this time play the part under the “2” (the second time) instead of the part under the “1”.
Basically you’re playing the first two bars for every repeat, but playing “ending 1” (notated by the “1” and bracket) the first time, and “ending 2” (notated by the “2” and bracket) the second time.
You can do this with as many different endings as you want.
Alternatively, you can use a repeat bar.
Which means “for this bar, just repeat the previous bar”.
A variation on this is the double repeat bar, which is basically the same but with two lines. It says “for these two bars, play the what you just played for the last two bars”.
Kinda saves you writing out the same thing twice.
This is one of those musical Italian terms…translated into English it means “from the start”. When you see it in a song, you should play up to that point and then go back to the beginning and play from there.
Sometimes it’s also shortened to “D.C.”- essentially just the music symbol for repeat from the start.
This one is a bit more complicated. Often shortened to “D.S.”, it basically means “from the sign”. So, you play up to that bit, then go back to where it has this sign:
Sometimes you’ll need to use more than one sign (for different parts of a song) for that we use “Dal Segno Segno” or “D.S.S.” (which is just two of the signs put together…).
“Coda” is the Italian term for “tail”- and in music it basically means the ending (or outro) of a piece. The words “to coda” in a piece of music mean “now go to the outro”.
There is also a certain symbol we use for the “coda” section. Here is a picture of it:
So, when you see “to coda” written above the stave at the end of a bar, it means to go to the bit with the coda sign.
However, it’s usually grouped with another instruction (as it’s unlikely that you’ll want to just skip to the end of a song half way through because that would miss half of it out…).
So we use the word “al” which pretty much means “to”. So you might see “Da Capo al Coda”- which translates as: “from the start (da capo) to the end (al coda)”.
What it’s telling you is:
“Go back to the start and play from there until you reach “to coda”, then play the outro”
You might also see “Dal Segno al Coda” which means go back to the sign instead of the start.
“Fine” is pronounced “Fin-e” and not like the English “fine”. It just means “the end” (think “finish” or “final”). You’ll probably see this added to the previous directions, and (or course) it’ll be written at the end of a piece.
So, “Dal Segno al Fine” means: “go back to the sign and play from there until you see the word “fine”, because that’s the end of the song”.
So, for an example of how to use these signs, say we had a song. The structure of the song is going to go like this:
intro – verse 1 – verse 2 – chorus – verse 3 – guitar solo – chorus – outro
Instead of having to write all of that out in notation or tab (which could be 10 or 20 pages long), we’re going to use repeat signs.
Verse 1 and Verse 2 are exactly the same, but with different lyrics, so we’re going to add repeat barlines to the beginning and end of verse 1. Now, on paper, we would have this:
intro – verse(x2) – chorus – verse 3 – solo – chorus – outro
Which should be less pages than the original (or at least it saves some space) and it’s still the same when you play it…but wait! We can shorten this even further!
If we add a “segno” sign to the beginning of the first chorus, then we can direct the music back to the chorus from after the solo with “dal segno”. This would mean that we can jump the music back to the chorus rather than writing out the whole chorus again! Then, after the chorus we can use “to coda” to jump back to the outro.
When written down, it would give us this:
intro – verse(x2) – chorus – verse 3 – solo – outro
Which takes up less space (and will be quicker to write). When you play this (with all the directions we’ve added), you should:
- start with the intro
- play the verse twice (because of the repeat barlines)
- then play the chorus for the first time
- then play verse 3
- then play the solo
- after the solo, it will say “dal segno al coda” so, you’ll go back to the sign and…
- …play the chorus again (looking out for a “to coda”)
- and after the chorus it should say “to coda”, so you’ll go to the outro
- Lastly, play the outro until says “fine” at the end (or there is no more music written…)
Yeah, it can get a bit confusing if you’re not used to it! Look at it this way: we’ve only had to write out the verse twice (instead of three times) and the chorus once (instead of twice)- plus you’re saving paper whenever you print the song out!