I have checked through music notation lists and have asked a number of musicians but nobody knows what this symbol is actually supposed to mean. a few bars with unknown symbol


3 Answers 3


It's a simile. There are a few different types of similes and this one means "play the last notated measure again". So in this piece you will end up playing the measure before the simile marks 3 times, then play the next notated measure.

It's pretty much a very shorthand way of saying "Play what you just played again".

  • 1
    Yes. If it has two slashes, you play the previous 2 measures. Jun 19, 2015 at 1:15
  • 2
    Yes. So after 13 you would play measure 13 again twice since there are two single measure simile marks.
    – Dom
    Jun 19, 2015 at 1:16
  • @JacobSwanson so you could write the whole cello part of Pachelbels canon in D with 2 measures and then the 2-slash simile repeated again and again, plus one end note? I'd never thought of that because I didn't know the 2-slash variant. Jun 19, 2015 at 5:25
  • If you only played the 2 measures for the entire piece(except for the end), I don't see why you couldn't. Jun 19, 2015 at 5:32

It is short-hand for "play this measure the same way you played the previous measure". Sometimes it is called the "repeat bar" symbol. It is frequently found, for instance, in fake-book charts and in notation for the "rhythm section" in jazz, meaning percussion, bass, piano and guitar (with guitar, particularly for indicating that you are to repeat a certain strumming pattern for chords). Sometimes you find a numeral over the symbol, meaning "play the same one-bar pattern for 2 measures", or 3 measures, or 4, etc.


Repeating what everyone else said: that symbol means repeat the last bar. Periodically, there are also ones that mean repeat the last two (or however many) bars. I don't remember off the top of my head what made that one look different, it was very similar, but I believe there was a number printed that helped with that conclusion.

They can't just put in normal repeat signs because the melody does not repeat, and that would mess up measure numbers, but it saves ink and your effort once you're used to it, to just say "repeat" like that.

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