I have written a hornpipe in AABB format which also has a counter-melody.

On the first time through the A section the counter-melody rests until halfway through the second bar. On the second repetition it comes in straight away. In fact the entirety of the first two bars of the counter-melody is different, but after that it's the same until the last bar which has a first and second ending bar.

My first attempt involves placing the begin repeat sign at the beginning of the third bar and having a 3 bar first ending - which actually contains the first 2 bars of the next repeat - and a one bar second ending that continues into the B section.

Although this works it is quite unintuitive and seems to really confuse people.

Can someone provide a better answer, before I give up, unroll the repeats and write it out in full?

  • What is going to be written for each of the two players? Two separate parts? Or is everything contained on the one copy?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 18:41
  • I am putting both parts in parallel on the same sheet for now. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 7:58
  • Probably be simpler to write out the parts separately. Job done - one to each player.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 8:19
  • Thanks for your comment, but I'm not sure how it would help. My question is about notating repeat structures where the first few bars are different on the second repeat. If I write the counter-melody on a separate sheet I will still need to represent this repeat structure. Or I could unroll the loop and write it out in full, but that doesn't depend on separating the parts. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 8:56
  • Your first attempt is correct. Players are used to first and second time sections containing more than one bar, and are not used to them coming at the start of the repeated section.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


You can put a bracket over the first bar and a half with text saying "2x only". Clarify with "(both x)" where it starts the first time. This kind of indication is completely standard in musical theater, and jazz and pop charts.

  • That notation is common in "formal" orchestral music as well. Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:14
  • But if it gets complicated, write it out.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 13:05

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