Dal Segno Symbol: What it Means

Avoid awkwardness in rehearsals with this tutorial on the dal segno symbol.

Your conductor just handed out new music and there is an unfamiliar music symbol on it. It would be nice if you could ask what it means, but the director is caught up trying to get rehearsal started. They are too busy to answer everyone’s questions, and wants everyone to begin playing right away.

So, the marking comes up while playing, and you take your best guess on what to do. The sweat starts to pour. Your heart starts beating faster. Then, you just freeze up. It’s better not to play than to make a mistake, right?

It feels awkward. It’s noticeable that you stop playing. You start to feel a little self-conscious too. Is there any hope?

Of course, there is, and I’ll show you how. It’s common for the dal segno symbol to appear on sheet music. Once you read this tutorial, you’ll feel better prepared.

dal segno symbol

Dal Segno Symbol

In music notation, the dal segno symbol (also called a dal segno sign) serves as a way to navigate sheet music. It implies returning to the segno sign and repeating the passage. This should not be confused with al segno which means “to the sign.”

According to Wikipedia, D.S. is short for the Italian musical term, dal segno, and it means “from the sign.” The dal segno symbol indicates that music is to be repeated from the beginning of the measure designated with this navigational marker.

measure repeat sign

The dal segno symbol looks like an “S” with a line through the center and a dot on both sides. If you remove the S-shape in the symbol, what is left is a measure repeat sign. This is why you repeat the music starting in the measure with the dal segno sign.

How the Dal Segno Symbol Appears in Music

Here are the two most popular ways you will see dal segno appear in your music:

1. D.S. al coda (dal segno al coda)

Read more about D.S. al Coda:

2. D.S. al Fine (dal segno al fine)

Read more about D.S. al Fine:

Dal Segno Symbol: Why it’s Important for You

Feel more relaxed and better prepared for rehearsals now that you understand what the dal segno symbol means. You know what to do when it pops up, which means you can actually enjoy rehearsals.


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