What do you do when you see 1st and 2nd endings in your music? First, maybe we should establish how this might appear.
What They Look Like
1st and 2nd endings look like a bracket with a number 1 and a number 2 underneath them. I like to think of them as similar to the old “choose your own adventure” books.
What Does That Got To Do With It?
For these types of books, you read through it once and pick an ending to finish it. Then you read through it again, but pick a different ending this time. The fun is in seeing the different ways the story develops and finalizes.
The same is true in music. The only difference is that you must follow a certain order of endings to play each time you repeat. You can’t just pick whichever ending you want to start with first.
That’s simple enough, right? But, how do I know to go back and repeat? You will find a repeat sign at the end of the 1st ending telling you to go back and play that section again. You will either go back to the beginning or to another repeat sign with the dots facing the right side.
Notice how the 2nd ending does not have a repeat sign? This is telling you to go on in the music. Don’t play that section over again.
Can There Be Multiple Endings?
You betcha! You can find 3 or more endings for the same section.
Just keep following the same rules repeating that section and taking the next ending in order each time (1st ending, 2nd ending, 3 ending, etc.).
It’s not real often that you find more than 2 endings. However, in more advanced music, 3-4 endings are a lot more common.
Why Do We Have This?
Why not just write out the music completely and not use 1st and 2nd endings? The best answer I can give you is that it shortens the length of the music to fewer pages. That alone makes it a bit more manageable and easier to read.
1st and 2nd endings are really not that hard to follow in your music. Just take your time to review it before you start playing, especially if you are playing or singing in an ensemble group. Always look over your music first to be clear of all directions and knowing what to expect before you even get started.