What Is a Double Barline and How to Use It

A double barline in musical composition

double barline refers to two thin, vertical lines used to separate different sections of a musical passage. In compositions written by non-English speakers, you may note that a double bar is referred to as "doppia stanghetta / barra / linea" (Italian), "double barre de mesure / barre de séparation" (French), or "Doppeltaktstrich; Doppelstrich; doppelter Taktstrich" (German). 

Applications for Double Barlines

Double barlines can be used in musical compositions in the following ways:

  1. Before a key change
  2. During an overall change of style; or before a chorus or bridge
  3. Before changing the time signature mid-line; if the change occurs mid-measure, a dotted double bar is used
  4. Before a tempo or Tempo I
  5. Sometimes occurs with the repeat commands dal segno (D.S.) or da capo (D.C.)

If the command fine is found in the middle of a composition, it will be accompanied by a final barline (in which case the song’s very last measure ends with a double barline); fine mid-measure is seen with a dotted double barline.

Other Musical Commands

  • Dal Niente: "from nothing"; to gradually bring notes out of complete silence, or a crescendo that rises slowly from nowhere.
  • Decrescendo: to gradually decrease the volume of the music. A decrescendo is seen in sheet music as a narrowing angle and is often marked decresc.
  • Delicato: “delicately”; to play with a light touch and an airy feel.
  • Dolce: very sweetly; to play in a particularly delicate manner. Dolcissimo is a superlative of "dolce."

Reading Key Signatures

Understanding key signature is essential to reading sheet music.

Major and minor are often described in terms of feelings or mood. The ear tends to perceive major and minor as having contrasting personalities; a contrast that is most obvious when the two are played back to back. Learn more about major and minor scales and keys.

If you’re familiar with the circle of fifths (or you just know your way around the key signatures) you may have noticed a few anomalies. Some keys—like B-sharp and F-flat major—are seemingly absent, while others go by two names.

The circle of fifths shows only the working scales. But, if we expand on its pattern, we can see that it’s actually more of an infinite spiral, so there’s no end to the possibilities of musical scales. See a clear visual of which keynotes are workable and which would be redundant.