Using LilyPond, I would like to repeat a section with an alternative at the beginning. My desired unfolded structure is "A-B-A-B-C-B", so that A becomes C the third time through. I have tried the following solution

music = \fixed c {
  \repeat volta 3 {
    \alternative {
       \volta 1,2 { s1_"A" }
       \volta 3 { s1_"C" }

\score { \music }
\score { \unfoldRepeats \music }

But I am looking for a solution where the folded version reads "A-B-C", with an alternative on "C" that leads back to a fine after "B", maybe via a segno.

Is there a way to do this?

  • 2
    The structure is easy: A-B repeated, then C then dal segno B until fine.
    – PiedPiper
    Jan 20 at 23:33
  • Thanks. That's how I pictured it but I can't find a way to translate this into a working lilypond script.
    – matvila
    Jan 23 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


The structure that you’ll want to use has both a Volta repeat loop (AB-AB) and a Dal Segno al Fine repeat loop (B-C-B), it will look something like this:

Score: A; Sengo, B, Fine, repeat; C, D.S. al Fine


In LilyPond both of these repeat structures work fine by themselves, but when they are combined like this it gets complicated. This logical flowchart shows why:

Flow chart: A to B, B1 to A, B2 to C, C to B, B3 to Fine.

These loops aren’t sequential because the B is inside both. But they aren’t nested either. Also, they can’t be combined into a single loop because they are different types, and there is no way of indicating to LilyPond whether the \volta n instructions are referring to the volta loop or the segno loop.

(The \repeat segno structure has only been available since v2.23, so it’s relatively new and still needs some work — perhaps the developers need to create a \segno n command.)


To get around this problem, you can use some of the special repeat commands. The command \volta #'() can be used to add markup/symbols (such as the manual segno repeat mark \segnoMark) to the folded representation of the score only. The command \unfolded does the opposite.

But even with these, unfortunately, you’ll still end up having to write the B section out twice in the code (unless you make it a variable).


The following will look right (like the image at the top of this answer) when folded, and importantly it will also unfold correctly.

        \repeat segno 2 {
            \volta 1 {
                \repeat volta 2 {
                    s1_"A" |
                    \volta #'() { \segnoMark 1 }
                    s1_"B" |
                    \volta #'() { \fine }
            \volta 2 {
                s1_"C" |
                \unfolded { s1_"B" | \fine }
  • Thanks a lot. Indeed, I forgot to explicitly state the constraint (or my desire) of writing each part only once, but embedding the code in a variable kind of solves this issue. I also noticed that with the \repeat segno solution, there is an another implicit segno mark that would show if some music preceded A section. So, for this fairly common structure, it seems quite complex to fulfill all conditions (write music once, correct folded and unfolded structure).
    – matvila
    Jan 23 at 14:31
  • @matvila I didn’t notice that extra segno mark before. If you want to get rid of it, place \omit\segnoMark 1 before the A section (inside or outside of the repeat structure). Jan 23 at 15:00
  • This is all just a workaround for the problem that the two loops are inherently inseparable and both are competing for the \volta n command. As I suggested, I think the developers probably need to make a separate \segno n command for a elegant solution. Jan 23 at 15:15
  • Great. Thanks for your help
    – matvila
    Jan 23 at 16:18

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