I'm trying to write down the melody of a song. It's in ABABBCB form, with a Coda. It also has a pickup measure. This is what I came up with. Is this correct? In the 2nd volta (ending), should it be double bar line (as shown) or the repeat sign (same as in 1st volta)? Is the "D.S. sign-symbol" without "al Coda" clear enough that one goes back to the sign and then the 3rd volta?

Example of form as score

To clarify, the intended play order is: pickup, A, B, 1st-ending, A, B, 2nd-ending, B, C, B, Coda.

  • If it's only for you to see then it doesn't matter, but I wouldn't use any repeats in such a short passage. Just write it out! Jan 28, 2022 at 9:46
  • Although I'm showing only 1 to 2 bars per section here, in reality each section has 4 to 8 bars.
    – Purple
    Jan 29, 2022 at 4:52
  • Even so, if other musicians are going to be playing it I would advise you to avoid nested repeat-signs. Rehearsals can be a nightmare. Instead of saying, "Let's go from the fifth bar of E" you end up saying, "The second time of E on the dal segno but after the first repeat." Or "Let's do the six bars before the coda but not the time we actually GO to the coda." Where have you ever seen music written your way? Jan 29, 2022 at 5:22
  • @OldBrixtonian - The Boosey & Hawkes publication of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 2 in A Minor combines both repeat signs and dal segno al coda, so "Let's do the six bars before the coda but not the time we actually GO to the coda" actually makes sense as a direction. Luckily, there are explicit instructions on the score to skip the repeat after the dal segno instruction has been reached.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 29, 2022 at 14:39
  • @Dekkadeci: It's a mess, that score! In fact it's a good example of the confusion I was warning about. If you try to follow it while listening to the piece you get lost. The first repeat - with its 1st time and 2nd time bars before B - is written correctly. There should just be a ||: (start-repeat sign) before the 3rd bar of E. Delete the segno sign after the second bar. Delete the "D.C. al Coda" at the 18th bar of J and delete the segno sign above it at the same place(!), but keep that bar's :|| (end-repeat sign). Also in the 18th bar, keep the 1st and 2nd time lines... Jan 29, 2022 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


What you've written correctly represents your intended order. It's the most efficient way to write it if the goal is to save paper, but it's not the most clear to follow as a performer. A more conventional way to write it would be

A, B, 1st ending
A, B, 2nd ending
B C B Coda

Illustration of conventional score organization

You could add a little efficiency by writing

A, B, 1st ending
A, B, 2nd ending
B, 1st ending = C
B, 2nd ending = Coda

Illustration of variation with efficiency gain

  • Thanks for the two other ways of writing. Yes, I was trying to minimize space; i.e. write down as few notes as possible, so that the whole song could fit on 1 page. But as you have pointed out, it might not be clear to the performer. I suppose it's matter of taste and compromise between the 2 extreme: most compact vs everything written out. I'm glad I got the compact way correctly, but I'm now leaning towards to use your first version instead.
    – Purple
    Jan 29, 2022 at 5:03
  • @Purple Glad it was helpful. FWIW, bands I played with would sometimes just notate several sections separately and then write down a roadmap. So a chart might look like music labeled "Intro" "Verse" "Chorus" (or "A" "B" "C"), and then there would be a section of text like "Intro 2x / Verse / Chorus / Intro / Chorus / Middle part / Verse / Ending".
    – Aaron
    Jan 29, 2022 at 5:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.