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Da capo, pronounced [da kˈkaːpo], is an Italian musical term that means "from the beginning" (literally, "from the head"). It is often abbreviated as D.C. The term is a directive to repeat the previous part of music, often used to save space, and thus is an easier way of saying to repeat the music from the beginning.
In small pieces, this might be the same thing as a repeat. But in larger works, D.C. might occur after one or more repeats of small sections, indicating a return to the very beginning. The resulting structure of the piece is generally in ternary form. Sometimes, the composer describes the part to be repeated, for example: Menuet da capo.[further explanation needed] In opera, where an aria of this structure is called a da capo aria, the repeated section is often adorned with grace notes.
Variations of the direction are:
- Da Capo al Fine (often abbreviated as D.C. al Fine): Repeat from beginning to the end, or up to the word Fine (should that appear at the end of the passage)—the word Fine itself signifying the end.
- Da Capo al Coda (often abbreviated as D.C. al Coda): Repeat from beginning to an indicated place and then play the tail part (the "Coda"). It directs the musician to go back and repeat the music from the beginning ("Capo"), and to continue playing until one reaches the first coda symbol. Upon reaching the first coda symbol, skip to the second coda symbol (which signifies the ending of the piece), and continue playing until the end. The portion of the piece from the second coda to the end is often referred to as the "coda" of the piece, or quite literally as the "end". This may also be instructed by simply using the words al Coda after which the musician is to skip to the written word Coda.
- Da Capo al Segno (often abbreviated as D.C. al Segno): It means "From the beginning to the sign (𝄋)".
- Randel, Don Michael; ed. (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music, p. 234. Harvard. ISBN 9780674011632.
- Grove, George; Fuller-Maitland, John Alexander; Pratt, Waldo Selden; and Boyd, Charles Newell; eds. (1906). Grove's dictionary of music and musicians, p. 42. Macmillan. [ISBN unspecified].
- Stainer, John and Barrett, William Alexander (1898). Stainer and Barrett's Dictionary of Musical Terms, p. 133. Novello. [ISBN unspecified].