I have the following 7 measure sequence: excerpt with repeats and alternate endings

To play it I go 1,2,3,4,5 repetition sign 2,3 use 2nd ending so 6,7. But at this point there is another repetition sign (the one at the end of the sequence) and I don't understand if it marks the end of the current repetition that I just did, or I have to repeat the whole sequence again. And if I have to repeat it again, would I go 1,2,3,4,5,2,3,6,7 again? So the whole song is 1,2,3,4,5,2,3,6,7 played twice?

2 Answers 2


Hello and welcome to Music: Practice & Theory StackExchange.

Traditionally, the last repeat sign, as a "right hand" repeat, would indicate that you go back to the left hand repeat sign at the beginning of measure 2.

So, measures in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, (repeat) 2, 3, 6, 7, (repeat) 2, 3, 4, 5, (repeat) 2, 3, 6, 7 ... and you're done.

I would mention that in some traditions, first endings are skipped the second time through; this is typically for the sake of brevity, so it would not apply to a short example like this, and endings are not skipped in very formal settings either. One tradition where this is standard practice in the March tradition in wind bands (I'm from the USA, not sure about England, etc.), particularly in march music after about 1920.

  • really? I've never come across a LH repeat matched to more than one RH repeat in 35 years. But ok, always something new to learn ...
    – danmcb
    Nov 13, 2019 at 22:00
  • 1
    @danmcb I agree that this is rare, and as LarsPeter writes, poor notation, but I seem to recall seeing it once or twice. I'd recommend a single end-repeat bar and notating the two endings as "1,2" and "3,4" or "1,2,4,5" and "3,6" . <-- That looks ugly now that I view it :) Nov 14, 2019 at 15:06
  • It is somewhat strange, rare, or what you might call it. The example is short enough that I might recommend some through-composing to eliminate confusing repeat conditions. In these days of copy/paste and pixel-printing, using additional resources in order to clarify the intent would be well worth the time spent in so doing. Nov 14, 2019 at 16:33

It is unclear what it means, which means that whoever wrote it better include a note on what to do.

It could be a typo. In the Finale music notation program there are options for 1st and 2nd endings. When you click on the second ending option, the program automatically puts a repetition sign at the end of the second ending unles you untick "Create backward repeat bar".

I have sometimes forgotten to untick that and then I have wondered why there is a repetition sign in my second ending. It is frustrating until you realize what is going on.

Whether that is what happened in your case I of course don't know, but it is a good qualified guess.

PS.: I just saw @Kevin_Kinsey's replay regarding the different traditions. That is interesting, but it underlines that it is not clear what it means unless you know which tradition is applied with that particular piece of music.

  • yes it just looks like a mistake to me. I think the second RH repeat should be a double bar line (end).
    – danmcb
    Nov 13, 2019 at 22:01
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    My comment regarding tradition has to do with skipping interior repeats when an entire piece is repeated, or, as is more likely, you have a Da Capo or Dal Segno back to the first section of a piece. As for the repeat sign, the rule is that a RH repeat goes back to the beginning if there is no LH repeat, or to a corresponding LH repeat if one exists, or, if unclear, to the previous LH repeat. I agree the example is poorly conceived in regard to clarity. Nov 14, 2019 at 16:31

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