I'm trying to write sheet music for a piece with a pickup measure of 5 sixteenth notes. Lilypond has the \partial command for this, but it only accepts a single duration. That duration may be dotted, but that doesn't help since I need 5 notes, not 3, 6 or 7.

I've tried various combinations of partials, e.g. using the command twice:

\version "2.16.0"

\relative c'' {
    \key g \major
    \partial 4 \partial 16 g16 g fis d b | e2

which produces a barcheck warning

warning: barcheck failed at: 1/4
   \partial 4 \partial 16 g16 g fis d b 
                                        | e2

and a wrong result:

enter image description here

I've tried other things like \partial { 4 16 } or \partial 4~16 but nothing seems to work; either the pickup measure is ignored or it has a wrong length.

Is there any solution for this? I don't want to use a pickup measure of one half note with 3 sixteenth rests.

2 Answers 2


\partial 16*5. Some people prefer writing \partial 1*5/16 which scales \partial 1 by the fraction 5/16, but I'd lean towards the simpler version.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Clever! I've seen that * for multi-measure rests, but never for notes or things like this. I even't can't find a definition for this notation in the documentation. Or is it a general Scheme trick?
    – Glorfindel
    Oct 22, 2020 at 6:14

I've found one workaround, but I'm not sure I really like it since the sum of the \partial durations is longer than the actual pickup measure:

\version "2.16.0"

\relative c'' {
    \key g \major
    \partial 4 g16 \partial 4 g fis d b | e2

and Lilypond warns about this:

trying to use \partial after the start of a piece
   \partial 4 g16 
                  \partial 4 g fis d b | e2

but the result is correct:

enter image description here

Using \partial 4 g16 g fis d \partial 16 b | e2 instead doesn't work properly, since it inserts a bar line after the d already (and produces a warning in the compiler):

enter image description here

I'm really interested in a better solution (if it exists)!

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