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The Wikipedia page for anacrusis states that

Western standards for musical notation often include the recommendation that when a piece of written music begins with an anacrusis, the composer, copyist, typesetter, or printer should delete a corresponding number of beats from the written music's final bar in order to keep the number of bars in the entire piece at a whole number.

In addition, my music teacher said that this is almost always the case, and that she hasn't seen any piece where this "rule" is broken.

Why is this the case?

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Counterexample: Beethoven Symphony number 5, third movement. The movement ends with a transition to the finale, and the last measure of this transition has the full three beats. The finale begins on beat 1 and the last measure is a full measure. There is just no place where the beat could be left out. – Mark Lutton Jun 23 '14 at 3:15
I would never, ever conform to western standards if that's the case - seems like a bizarre, outdated classical concept. It's an up-beat, why on earth would you take a beat out of the final bar to compensate? By the time you get to the end you'd have forgotten about the anacrusis anyway. – Robbie Averill Jun 23 '14 at 4:10
@scrowler precisely - and in my experience, it's very rare to do that anyway. This is a bizarre 'rule'. I certainly haven't seen the music jon2512chua's teacher is referring to, or the Wikipedia article's idea either. Maybe it's some weird modern idea (where I count 'modern' as 'anything after 1800'...) – Matthew Walton Jun 23 '14 at 15:02
Even if this were a rule, this is music, not math. Your last and first measures should be as long as artistic taste dictates, not Wikipedia or your teacher. – Kevin Jun 23 '14 at 22:39
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Basically, I'd say this isn't a rule.

Or maybe it's a misphrasing of a rule.

You generally see the last bar shortened to match the pickup bar when there's a repeat that goes right back to the start of the pickup bar, in order to preserve overall bar lengths as consistent within the section. This then implies that the subsequent section also has a pickup (the remainder of the bar with the repeat marking in the middle of it).

And notationally, actually, that's often done by dropping a start repeat marker on the first full bar after the anacrusis, so the anacrusis for the second time through is actually incorporated into the last bar of the repeated section. This enables the anacrusis to be different the second time, but more importantly means you don't have to stick a repeat sign in the middle of a bar, which can be confusing to sight-readers.

With regards to the end of the piece, I've seen a few pieces where the piece ends on a partial bar, but I've seen a lot more pieces where it ends on a full bar, thus leaving the entire piece with a non-integer number of complete bars.

My experience is primarily with baroque, renaissance and English folk music, so this might be different elsewhere, but the pattern I generally see is:

(pickup bar):(lots of full bars):(finish with a full bar, sometimes a longer bar)

In an era where throwing in bars of different lengths from time to time was perfectly normal (and indeed a lot of music was being written without bar lines anyway, making that kind of thing much more tempting), not 'matching' your pickup opening in the last bar would've been entirely unremarkable. If you look at scores for various fantasies, ayres, various dances and so forth you'll often find the ones that do start with a pickup still finish with a full bar for the final chord (at least in the bass, sometimes in every part).

So I'd only expect to see anacrusis length matching when repeating.

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It is to make up for starting early in an anacrusis (pick up) measures because without making up for it at the end, you technically have one measure in a different time signature.

Think of it this way, when you start a song with an anacrusis lasting one beat in 4/4 you would start the song with counting 1 - 2 - 3 and star playing on 4. The song did not start until beat 4 so at the end this must be taken into account and a full measure consists of the leftovers before the anacrusis to combine to make a full measure so the last measure will only consists of beats 1, 2, and 3 leave out 4.

Also note the anacrusis is not the first measure. The first measure of a song happens after the anacrusis so it would make sense to tack on the extra beat to the end instead of the beginning. There is no measure 0.

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While your answer explains the concept (and, as such, your answer is completely correct and valid), I do think that the premise of the concept is completely wrong. A bar with an anacrusis does not have a different time signature. Think of it as a bar that comes before the actual first bar, where the first x notes are rests. This is quite clear when you look at an anacrusis for an instrument that is being accompanied by other instruments. The others are already playing, and the bar has already started, when the instrument joins in, mid-bar, so to speak. - cc - – Lee White Jun 23 '14 at 15:19
This bar is not an incomplete bar; just not all of it is being utilized by that one instrument. Regardless of this, +1 because good answer. – Lee White Jun 23 '14 at 15:20

The ruling probably came in when bar lines were the acceptable way to divide tunes, Baroque time.Then a rule needed to be made to compensate for the part bar at the beginning. An incomplete bar at the end adding to the anacrucis rounded it off better. It's maybe more noticeable in songs - the most important word would be 'saints',not 'Oh when the'. So the first proper bar starts on 'saints', not '(rest) Oh'. So the anacrucis is regarded as bar 0 - on some computer stuff, rather than bar 1. It then makes sense to complete the cycle with the rest of that '0' bar. Sometimes songs have an anacrucis on only some of their verses. In those cases, the repeat line is not right at the beginning of the piece, but at the beginning of 'bar 1', the new anacruses being written at the END of the previous verse.

No, it's not strictly necessary in some cases, as, by the end you've stopped counting naturally anyway.But, it adheres to some rules which may make the piece appear better written.As it's found in so many pieces, musicians tend to expect it to be written correctly. A bit like putting Ab instead of G# in a tune in E - some would argue 'well it's the same note anyhow - in equal temperament.. '.But it would throw musicians who are used to convention.

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Baroque music with an anacrusis typically ends on a full-length bar, in my experience. They didn't really care about bar lines then. – Matthew Walton Jun 23 '14 at 15:00

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