D.S. al Coda Definition And 4 Easy Steps

Understanding the D.S. al Coda definition will help you know what to do when you see these Italian words in your music.  There are two major things involved with this kind of directional marking: 1) there is a repeat, and 2) a skip is involved taking you to the last section of the piece.

Dal Segno

D.S. is actually short for the word Dal Segno.   What does it mean?  Dal Segno is translated into the English language as “from the sign”.

What sign are we talking about here?  Take a look at the example below.

d.s. al coda definition

You will notice an “S”-shaped symbol in the music.  This is the sign Dal Segno is referring to.


At the end of a music page, you might find a separate section labeled “Coda”.  In English, Coda means “end or concluding passage”.  It is the last thought before wrapping up the song entirely.

The final double bar line is always a good indication where the end of a song truly is.

The 4 Step Process

So, how do I play this?  It can be done in about 4 steps.

  1. Start at the beginning and play until you see D.S. al Coda.
  2. Go back to the “S” sign and repeat this passage.
  3. Keep playing until you see the symbol of an oval with a cross inside.  This is a Coda sign telling you to skip to the labeled Coda section.
  4. Go directly to the Coda and keep playing all the way to the end.

As a general rule, whenever you see the Coda sign in your music, this means to skip directly to the Coda section.  The Coda section is an added ending usually marked with the same sign.

What Do I Do Again?

Well, according to this D.S. al Coda definition, you always:  1) repeat from the “S” sign and play to the Coda sign, then 2) skip to the Coda section and play to the end.   Now you know exactly where the repeat is and the location of the skip in your music.

Practice Tips

Always look for musical terms like this before you start playing.  Take a moment to figure out what you need to do in order to play all the way to the end.  Don’t be afraid to write reminders in your music drawing extra attention to these directions.

Don’t let these markings scare you.  In about 4 easy steps, you are ready to start playing!


  1. 3


    Thanks for explaining this so clearly! I am putting a friend’s handwritten scores into Finale and needed help with proper notation of all the parts of a D.S. al Coda. I’m a professional musician and have seen it used often, but I couldn’t remember off the top of my head exactly where everything went. Thanks again!

  2. 5


    I learned that D.S. directs me to go back to the “sign,” ( usually an embellished “S” atop the music notes ), and then continue playing, either to the end, or to a Coda sign, or AlCoda, which directs me to go to the Coda which becomes the end. I Look forward to working it out on some music I have handy.
    I acknowledge the clarity of your teaching. Thank you for your commitment to having us know. Best wishes,

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