Term 2 Theory Lessons & Quiz

1 Road Maps

What is a road map?

This is not the type of road map you take with you on vacation! A road map is a non-technical term used to describe the way to follow a piece of music.

Back in the days before photocopiers and scanners, music had to be written down by hand. Usually a composer would write the first copy, or score, that had all the instrumental parts on it. If it was a symphony score, there would be many different staff lines for all the instruments in the orchestra. When it was finished to his satisfaction, the composer would then pass his score to a copyist. That copyist would write all the orchestra parts out, by hand, for every member of the orchestra. If there were 18 violins in the orchestra, the copyist would need to make at least 9 copies of that part. Think about how many people there are in the average orchestra. That is A LOT of writing.

Over time, copyists and composers created symbols to help save time and paper. This meant that if a section of music was the same, or if one part of the music form returned later on in the piece, the composer could just write a small symbol to tell the copyist and musician reading the part what to do.


If a section of music needs to be repeated exactly the same, you can use a repeat sign. The repeat sign looks like a final barline, but it has two dots in the middle.

When you see a repeat sign it means that section of music should be repeated. Usually a repeat is only played once (as in, you play the section 2 times), unless it is marked "play 3 times" or "play until fade out." But how do you read it? You have 2 possible options:

1. A begin repeat sign looks just like an end repeat sign, but it is flipped backwards. If you see one of these, you should just continue to play past it, but remember where it is. When you reach the end repeat sign, you then go back to the begin repeat and play just that section between the repeat signs over again.

2. If there is no begin repeat sign, then you go back to the start of the piece of music and repeat the whole piece again.


If a section of music needs to be repeated almost exactly the same (but not quite), you can use an ending. This shows that the first part of your repeat is the exact same, but you can write in the slightly different part in an ending.

Here is a piece of music that is written without an ending.

If you played the bars in the correct order, they would be : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

You can see that bars 1 & 2 are the same as bars 5 & 6. But we can't write a repeat of the whole piece, because bar 3 & 4 are not the same as bars 7 & 8. We can use an ending to show this.

This piece of music should be read in the following order:

  • Play bars 1 and 2.
  • Play the first ending (bars 3 and 4)
  • Repeat back to the beginning.
  • Play bars 1 and 2.
  • Skip over the first ending and play the second ending (bars 5 and 6).
  • And you're finished!

If you played the bars in the correct order, they would be: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 5, 6.

This is a very small example, but you can see if an entire section of a piece was repeated, this would save a lot of time for the copyist and paper for writing out a whole page or multiple pages of music. Repeats are good for the environment!

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