I have a question about the last volta(ultima volta, last ending bracket). When should it be closed and when should it be open?

I have found a document about that topic, which can be found here on page 20: https://www.icking-music-archive.org/lists/sottisier/notation.pdf

(f) Endings must be bracketed. When a second oocurs in the middle of a pice, the bracket should extend for a measure or two and then end without the closing stroke. When the second ending occurs at the end of a piece or section, the bracket must closed.

Also, I have found this site (https://ultimatemusictheory.com/volta-brackets/) in which the last volta is never closed, even if the last volta includes a double-bar line.


That's where I'm confused, because if a sections ends, the volta should too, right?

Then I found a quote from Elaine Gould from the book "Behind Bars", where she writes:

At the end of a piece, to look more final, run a second-time bar to the end and (provided it is shorter than a whole system) and close it parallel to the final double barline.

Can someone explain me, when the last volta has to be closed and when not?

Here I have an accordion arrangement of the song "Riptide" from Vance Joy, where I use some voltas in differen situations. Which ones are correct and where do I have to do some corrections with the voltas?

Vance Joy - "Riptide" (accordion arrangement): https://musescore.com/user/13672956/scores/6716649

  • Don't understand the end of bar 87. – Tim Apr 20 at 11:19
  • With the double non-final barline interrupting those sections in the pictures, I think the voltas not being closed in them look fine. – Dekkadeci Apr 20 at 11:52
  • Read Gould from page 166 about how to notate syncopations. – PiedPiper Apr 20 at 12:30

Closing the last volta bracket is unnecessary and can be confusing (except, as Gould suggests, when there is a short bracket at the very end of a piece).
In your arrangement, you could get away with the closed voltas in m.39 and m.73 because they are ending a section, but it's better without. The one at m.87 is wrong.

  • Thank you for your answer. Why should it be better, when the last volta is open, eventhough the section ends? The linked documentation stated that it must be closed, when a section ends, which applies on my arrangement. In LilyPond the last volta would be open, when the section ends, which is wrong according to the document. I'm just confused that there is contrary information about that. It would be nice to have clarity on that, like a exact definition. – Schnotzer Apr 21 at 2:52
  • 1
    There are no hard and fast rules, only best practice, and there is disagreement about that. The idea of notation is to give the performer all the information they need, but reduce unnecessary clutter. Closing the volta brackets at the end of every section provides no useful information: once you've found the volta and jumped to it, there is no more information needed. Closing the bracket distracts the attention from the important information: the dal segno – PiedPiper Apr 21 at 8:24
  • Yes, there is contrary information here! Maybe there's a use for a closed bracket at the end of a section when the music IS very sectional - perhaps a Strauss waltz. If writing in a particular style, follow its conventions (and a Strauss waltz, with its 'demented-rondo' nest of repeats, refrains, DS jumps etc. DOES have its own conventions - look at some on IMSLP. They save a lot of paper, but are not exactly 'correct'!) – Laurence Payne Apr 21 at 11:54
  • I personally never close a repeat section-ending volta unless it's at the very end of a piece. I don't care that ragtime and Strauss waltzes are regimented and sectional as heck - section-ending closed voltas mid-piece do not look natural, not even in them. – Dekkadeci Apr 21 at 12:09

A hooked bracket end indicates that the music repeats back. An open end indicates that it carries on. I'd never really thought about the hooked end for a short 'last time bar' that concludes a piece, but it makes sense, and a quick trawl through some printed song copies confirms that it's generally done. Note that the bracket gets a hook because the whole piece ends. Not at an internal double barline.

You would only put a double barline at the end of a 'last time' bracket if it marks the end of a musical section. So the double barline in your first example is possibly correct, the one before 'done' in the second example is wrong.

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