How to Read Segno and Coda Marks
In this free online piano lesson, we are
going to talk about some of the commonly used signs and sybmols found in sheet music. Dal Segno marks are
Italian for “from the sign” and instructs the musician to repeat a passage of music. Within piano music
theory, it is the equivalent of marking of a contemporary pop chorus.
A D.S. al coda tells the musician to repeat back to the sign, the segno, a symbol that looks like a capital “S”
with a slash in the middle and two dots on opposite ends. The D.S. al coda instructs the musician to go back to the
segno mark and continue the rest of the score as its written.
D.S. al fine is very similar to the D.S. al code in that you still repeat back to the segno sign, but, you end
at the measure marked “fine”.
When reading a segno mark, look above the top of the highest staff. It is typically the highest mark on a treble
clef staff that is symbolized like a capital “S” with the marks described earlier.
Unless you are playing a piano or another instrument that has two or more staffs, it will be above everything on
the singular staff and this includes all the above staff notes. It gets easier and easier to notice the segno marks
as your music theory knowledge improves.
Coda is the Italian word for tail; in the plural form it means the code. A coda mark ends a movement or the
piece of music. The relationship between a coda and cadence is very simple; a coda leads to the cadence. It can be
as short as a few measures or a section of music.
When reading a coda mark on a piece of sheet music, there are typically two
or more coda marks. One after the segno mark with "coda" underneath the cross hair scope shaped mark. The
second coda mark is near the end of the piece of music to show the end of the movement; the cadence. A cadence
is the melodic or harmonic end of a piece of music; the end is most often marked with the word “fine” which
means “end” in Italian.
When studying segno and coda marks in music theory there are a few tips that can help beginners. One tip is,
when reading a basic piece of sheet music, you can use highlighters to show when you repeat and when to move on to
the next section of music. Another tip is numbering the measures and having small directions to you, such as “Play
measures 6-24 then repeat through 6 and continue to the end.”
These are just two simple tips that can help aid in your music theory education. They can both be used in conjunction
with taking your rehearsals slow and easy at first. Playing the piece at the original speed is the ultimate
However, consistently paced rehearsal is the best way to get used to not only the score, but the new notation
marks. Segno and coda marks can be difficult to understand at first, although, when using simple direction and
color coded assistance, coda and segno marks become much easier to understand.
The segno and coda marks were created so that composers didn’t have to write the same passages over and over
again. When you are first learning these new notations; remember to keep it simple.
If colors help you remember, then use highlighters to give yourself cues. Segno and coda marks require keen
observation and understanding of the composed score. However, you can memorize the measures that need to be
repeated. By doing so, a successful recital will follow in its wake.