A piece has an alternating 7/8 and 8/8 pattern a la this answer's second example, notated as 7+8/8 with dotted barlines between.

For the purpose of numbering, does the full 15-beat pattern count as one measure or two?

3 Answers 3


What Gould says

In Elaine Gould's Behind Bars, it's made clear that dotted barlines designate divisions of a measure and not measures in themselves (all emphases mine).

Where possible, bar division is indicated by beam grouping or by the particular division of longer notes and rests. Otherwise, divide bars by adding dotted barlines. (page 178)

In an instrumental part, dotted barlines are very helpful, especially in complex music or long bars, since the player may well mark in the divisions of the bar in any case. (page 178)

Dotted barlines may separate the different portions of the bar. (page 180)

And the below example (page 628) shows the use of a dotted barline, which is clearly not part of the measure numbering.

Example from Gould page 628

Labeling bar divisions

In a situation where bar divisions are complex or need to be easily specified (say, by a conductor), each division could be labeled (a), (b), (c), etc. Thus the second subdivision of measure 37 would be bar 37b.

This is just a suggestion, not an "official" practice.


You can number measures with dotted barlines in any way that's convenient for you and the people playing your music. Just make sure the numbering you choose is consistent and clear in all the parts.
Probably ignoring the dotted barlines and counting the whole 15-beat pattern as one measure would be clearest.


I'd argue that dotted barlines aren't real barlines, so they don't indicate the start of a new measure and won't add to the count.

Alternatively, if you think that each 7/8 and 8/8 pattern is a complete measure of its own, then why are you using dotted barlines?

  • I'm not certain it is or isn't, but if I were, it would be because marking where the pattern starts makes it easier to read. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 19:32

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