Musical Repeats and Volta Brackets

Volta brackets used with repeat signs.
Notice the "end repeat" is only written after the 1st ending. A double barline is then used to separate the 2nd ending from the measures that follow it. Image © Brandy Kraemer
  • The musical symbols volta brackets – or “time bars” – are horizontal brackets labeled with numbers or letters that are used when a repeated passage will have two or more different endings.

A composition may contain any number of volta brackets. They can be found at the end of a song or movement, or anywhere within the body of the music.


Musical Trivia: “Volta” is Italian for “time.” Traditionally, volta brackets are labeled 1a or 2a for prima and seconda volta, or “first” and “a second time.”

Also Known As:

  • endings; time bars [1st, 2nd]
  • prima, seconda volta [1a, 2a] (It)
  • première, deuxième fois [1e, 2e] (Fr)
  • Voltenklammer; Haus [1, 2] (Ger)​​

​​How to Read Sheet Music:

  • See the notes on the treble and bass staves, as well as their ledger lines, and learn mnemonic devices to help you remember them.
  • Key signatures take some time to memorize. Whether you want to identify one or learn how to write one on the staff, this interactive and quick key signature finder will help.
  • Tempo Commands Organized By Speed: Resource for the most common tempo terms in Italian, French, and German, organized by their BPM (beats per minute).
  • How to Read Piano FingeringLittle numbers are sometimes written next to the notes on the staff to help you sort out which fingers you should use on which keys. Fingering is frequently found in beginner notation, but is also seen alongside difficult passages in more advanced sheet music.
  • Chord Types & Their Symbols: See the various symbols that specify certain chords in notation, and learn how to form them using simple formulas.