Repeats are used to save space and reduce clutter. Why write something out five times when you can use repeats? In the book ‘Open Chords Made Easy‘, there are multiple types of repeats that are used.
The first type of repeat is a symbol that looks like a percentage sign. This is a repeat symbol that is used commonly (it is not specific to this site or book) to indicate that the previous bar is to be repeated. We will only be using it in the chord charts and only to indicate that a strumming rhythm is being repeated, not necessarily a chord. If a chord is to be repeated, it is simply written again, although this symbol is often used to repeat chords as well. As you can see in the example, the chords are changing from one bar to the next, but Rhythm 1 is being repeated.
The ‘end repeat’ symbol indicates that you have reached the end of a section and need to repeat that section. The start of the section is marked with a Start Repeat. If there is no Start Repeat, you simply go back to the start of the piece. The most important thing in the image is the two dots. That is how we know that it is a repeat sign.
This symbol indicates the start of the section that you will need to repeat from, when you see the End Repeat.
1st Time and 2nd Time Bars:
These are sometimes used with repeats. If you are repeating a section, it means that you will play the section at least twice. When this happens and 1st/2nd time bars are involved, you simply play the 1st time bar the first time around and on the second time around, you skip the 1st time bar and go straight to the 2nd time bar. The same principles apply for 3rd time and 4th time bars etc. (but are not as common).
D.S. al Coda
“Da Segno al Coda” – This translates as ‘From the sign to the coda’ and indicates that you go back to the sign symbol until you reach the ‘To Coda’. Once you see ‘To Coda’, you go straight to the ‘Coda’.
D.S. al Fine
‘Da Segno al Fine’ – This translates as ‘From the sign to the finish’ and indicates that you go back to the sign (usually near the start) until you reach the ‘Fine’ – which is the end of the piece.
D.C. al Coda
‘Da Capo al Coda’ – This translates as ‘From the head to the coda’ and indicates that you go back to the start of the piece until you reach the ‘To Coda’. Once you see ‘To Coda’, you go straight to the ‘Coda’.
D.C. al Fine
‘Da Capo al Fine’ – This translates as “From the head to the finish” and indicates that you go back to the start of the piece until you reach the ‘Fine’, which is the end of the piece.
‘To Coda’ indicates to go straight to the ‘Coda’ (usually the Coda is at the end of a piece). Important – you only follow this instruction after you have followed the instructions of a ‘D.S. al Coda’ or a ‘D.C. al Coda’. Effectively, this means that you ignore ‘To Coda’ the first time you see it.
The ‘Coda’, literally translated as the ‘Tail’ is a section at the end of a piece of music. It is usually the last thing you play. You always reach a Coda by being directed there from a ‘To Coda’ sign.
This is the symbol (or sign – ‘Segno’) that you go back to after you see ‘D.S. al Coda’ or ‘D.S. al Fine’.
‘Fine’ means ‘Finish’ or ‘End’. When you see this after following the instructions of a ‘D.C. al Fine’ or ‘D.S. al Fine’, you finish the song.
The best way to explain how repeats work is to look at an example chord chart. Observe the chord chart and then follow the step by step instructions.
- We start playing at bar 1
- When we get to the end of bar 6, we see a ‘To Coda’. We ignore this though and keep going, because we have not yet come to a ‘D.S al Coda’ or ‘D.S’ al Fine’.
- Bar 8 is a ‘1st time bar’. Since this is our first time through, we play bar 8 after playing bar 7.
- At the end of bar 8 is an ‘end repeat’. This means we need to go back to the closest ‘start repeat’ (bar 1).
- We go back to bar 1 and keep playing, ignoring the ‘To Coda’ at the end of bar 6 for the same reasons as before.
- Since this is our second time through, we skip bar 8, and go to the ‘2nd time bar’. We effectively go from bar 7 to bar 9.
- We keep playing until we get to the end of bar 14, where we see a ‘D.C al Coda’. The ‘D.C al Coda’ tells us to go back to the start until we get to the ‘to coda’.
- We go back to the start and at the end of bar 6, we see ‘to coda’. This time we follow it and skip straight to the ‘Coda’, at bar 18.
- We play from bar 18 to the end (bar 21).
And that’s it! This might seem confusing, but once you’ve done a few, it’s actually quite simple. Repeats actually exist to simplify things. Music inherently uses repetition, and communicating repeats in written music is a necessity.