enter image description hereWhat does this arrow below the staff pointing to six mean? Do I repeat the measure until 6, rest until 6, or something else? If it helps at all this is pit orchestra music for a musical :) Thanks!

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    You might also ask your MD - even in a rehearsal. Others might have a similar mark on their parts and not know what it means. Oct 1, 2022 at 17:01
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    @ToddWilcox do NOT waste time in rehearsal asking pointless questions about measure numbers.
    – MattPutnam
    Oct 1, 2022 at 17:53
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    @MattPutnam I’ve been told to ask questions in rehearsals for the exact reasons I mentioned - in case others have the same question. I guess different MDs have different styles. Oct 1, 2022 at 18:06
  • @ToddWilcox I guess it depends on the type/level of ensemble, but in a musical theatre rehearsal you're typically looking at something like 3 hours to get through 1.5-2 hours of music. You absolutely cannot stop for questions about measure numbers. My general rule is, if your question can be (rudely) answered with "just play the music on the page" then it's a bad question. Because even if your MD manages a more polite response, that's exactly what they're thinking. Maybe it's a typo, maybe it means something, but you should just play the page and if that works, then shrug it off and keep going
    – MattPutnam
    Oct 3, 2022 at 1:43
  • @MattPutnam: Since this question is "Should I play bar 1 on repeat 5 times, play it once and then rest for 4 bars, or something else?", it's not a question that can be answered with "just play the music on the page". Because doing either of the things the questioner has (reasonably) guessed it might mean would be quite disruptive. You may know that the notation in question is merely an irrelevant detail about measure numbers, but someone who doesn't know that... doesn't know that!
    – psmears
    Oct 3, 2022 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


This is an indication that the measure numbers are discontinuous. The numbering goes from 1 directly to 6, so presumably there were measures 2-5 that got cut at some point.

This happens frequently in musical theater, because during the original production, the music is constantly being adjusted and measures are added or removed. However, the entire production has already started to refer to points in time by measure number, so you can't change measure numbers after they've been written. For example, the Lighting Designer has already decided that a particular lighting cue will happen at m. 50, and if you change the measure numbers, then everyone's notes go out of date and it's pure chaos. So instead, we deal with discontinuities like this.

When measures are added, they'll get a letter suffix. So if it's decided that an intro isn't long enough and 4 more measures need to get added between m. 4 and 5, then those measures get numbered 4A-4D.

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    Preserving measure numbers also also means that cuts can be marked in orchestral parts rather than having to reprint them.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 1, 2022 at 18:16
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    Is the arrow symbol a standard notation for measure number discontinuity? Oct 3, 2022 at 2:03
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    @ElementsinSpace It's non-standard (it's the first time I've ever seen it) but very obvious. Often there is no special marking apart from the measure numbers themselves, often the is a marking "[to 6]" over the stave. The arrow seems like a very good solution.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 3, 2022 at 7:23
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    I guess it's nonstandard in the sense that musical theater does a lot of weird things like this that don't usually happen in other settings. But in the context of musical theater, this is common and I think most of the materials delivered by MTI are marked like this.
    – MattPutnam
    Oct 3, 2022 at 14:12
  • @MattPutnam Non-contiguous measure numbers are standard. The arrow is not (but a good idea).
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 4, 2022 at 11:09

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