Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Importance of Repeat Signs in Music

A new lesson on repeat signs

In this video, Robert explains why repeat signs are so important in a music performance.

Released on June 11, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a very important show, "The Importance of Repeat Signs in Music." Yes, you see them all the time, the double bar with the two dots, tells you to repeat. And, you know, a lot of people think, "Oh that's kind of optional." Well is it? We'll that's what we're gonna talk about it today.

Oftentimes, I have students ask me, "What are repeat signs all about? Why are they there?" And you know what the simple answer is? To save paper. That's right. The repeat signs are only there so that you don't have to write out the music all over again.

In fact, sometimes you'll find the same exact piece with a repeat side and in other editions the note's all written out. Now you would never think of leaving out the notes, just because it's the same notes and music. Well repeat signs are just as important for the structure of the music.

To demonstrate this I'm gonna play the beginning of the famous Beethoven piece, "Fur Elise," which starts with the repeated theme. And you're going to hear it first without taking the repeat that's written and listen to the structure of this in the form. And then right after, I'm gonna play the first section with the repeat. And you'll notice there's a very different nuance of flavor and mood. So once again this is without the repeat.


Okay, it's fine. But listen to it when you take the repeat that Beethoven wrote in, the very first section of repeats.


It makes a tremendous difference not only that there are many pieces of music where I'll hear a pianist or other instrumentalist start the piece at some ridiculously...what I think is a ridiculously slow tempo. And I know right away as soon as they get to the repeat, they're not gonna take it. Why? Because they've taken too slow a tempo. And it doesn't work at that slow tempo with a repeat. So, is it thinking that the composer made a mistake putting the repeat in there? No. You must find a tempo that works with the repeats. It's an intrinsic part of the music.

I want all of you to try your music with all the repeats and see how refreshing it is. Feel how the form comes to life. The composers did not haphazardly put the repeat signs in. They're part of the music and you should play them whenever possible as long as there aren't time constraints in your program. Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here on and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on July 27, 2016 @2:25 pm PST
as a matter of fact, reapeats save a lot of writing labour and time to the composers, and that's even more important than saving paper. Certainly when pieces were handwritten or printed using old graphic techniques. Saving paper is still important, because it saves you the trouble of turning pages, and that's also a very important point in the comfort of the payer.
joyce marshall on July 27, 2016 @6:18 am PST
C'mon Robert, please get the music at the end of your videos, published. I love that piece and would like to learn it. I have suggested this over the years but don't see it coming forth. Thanks for all the interesting videos. I look forward to them.
p,s, Our Conservatory of Music exams requests that repeats be ignored for examination purposes. This is such a pity. I know time is important but when we practise so hard to get a good mark and then they don't spend the time to hear it all is such a shame.
Robert Estrin - host, on July 27, 2016 @11:25 am PST
So glad you like the composition. I will put this in my to do list for you.
Joyce on July 27, 2016 @4:40 pm PST
Thanks so much. Hope your 'to do' list is not too long.
Laurel Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on June 12, 2014 @7:54 am PST
I have that "you don't repeat a repeat" when going back to da capo....And yet there seems to be instances where you do...Is there any hard and fast rule, or are we at the mercy of the publishers to figure it out?
Robert Estrin - host, on July 27, 2016 @11:25 am PST
Generally if the repeats are not standard, there are instructions written in the score to clarify.
Ernest on June 12, 2014 @1:59 am PST
great,these videos has helped me greatly in increasing my musical knowledge
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on June 12, 2014 @7:56 am PST
Glad to know that Ernest! Please, feel always free to post your questions to Robert or us, either on these pages or through our Contact Us form:

Enjoy the great music!
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on June 11, 2014 @3:37 pm PST
Thankyou - that was well presented and covered a basic subject. I look forward to the next. Thanks again.
Bill * VSM MEMBER * on June 11, 2014 @4:55 am PST
I'm just an amateur composer, and so can't be considered an authority, I suppose, but any repeats I incorporate in my music are absolutely integral and the effect wouldn't be the same without them. Skipping my repeats would be like editing out parts of (rewriting) my music without my permission.
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