I'm working on a project using music sheets, but I don't understand music theory or notation.

The sheet I'm studying is The Four Seasons. From what I gather the sheet was written with the MuseScore software (the accompanying MIDI has the name of the music and author at the meta event 09 and 10).

Before the time signature for the piece there's a eighth note with the fortissimo mark.

What is the meaning of this note?

staff with (in order from left to right): clef, key signature, eighth note with fortissimo mark (circled in red), barline, time signature, beamed eighth notes, ...

  • looks like a pickup to me. Probably a stylistic choice to keep the ledger looking artful.
    – sova
    Sep 14, 2016 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


It's an engraving mistake. The time signature should come straight after the key signature, before the first note.

Here's the opening of the Ricordi edition, from IMSLP. The f indication is in brackets, this indicates that's it's an editorial addition, not in the original manuscript.


enter image description here

  • 2
    This does NOT have to be a mistake. It is most likely an artistic choice. Time signatures can occur whenever in a score. There are many songs that shift between 6/8 and 3/4 without re-declaring their key. Generally speaking, the first time signature is before the the first note, but in this case it is likely indicating that it is the directors choice how fast to take it, especially with the fortissimo. Without a time signature, the eighth note has no assigned length, and can therefore be taken at any tempo or length. Although, that is all theoretical and not necessarily relevant to that song. Sep 14, 2016 at 20:42
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    @EvSunWoodard - you mixed up time and key sigs. Not many songs shift between 3/4 and 6/8, as the feel is quite different, and the time sig needs to be there. How does fortissimo affect timing? It's usually bpm ( or 'allegro' here) that dictates speed and tempo. The time sig is a relative thing. This comment is confusing.
    – Tim
    Sep 14, 2016 at 22:22
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    Sorry, EvSunWoodard, you're way out here! This is a simple engraving error. End of. Really.
    – Laurence
    Sep 15, 2016 at 11:17
  • @Tim I'm not saying that this cannot be an engraving error, but I am saying that the composer is a liberty to do basically whatever s/he wants. Many songs change time signature, search songs by Hazo, specifically Sevens, which purposely changes between 7/8 and 3/8 for the change in feel. While the fortissimo doesn't change the timing, without a time signature the director is a liberty to hold the note as long as s/he wants to. So, if you want to make a grand entrance, act as if that eight is a whole note, because it makes no difference without signature. Otherwise, make it short and sweet. Sep 15, 2016 at 13:10
  • @EvSunWoodard - in that case, put a fermata over the note. Take a thousand mainstream songs, and I doubt if more than a dozen will have timing changes. Take a load of jazz tunes, you'll find a lot.
    – Tim
    Sep 15, 2016 at 13:28

It must be an anacrucis, but generally, the time signature is found before the note/s rather than after it. When there is an anacrucis, the last bar usually has enough beats so that the two add up to a full bar. Maybe this way, the package has decided that the last bar will be a full four beats. The 'ff' mark will apply to the next part too, not just the anacrucis.

  • I think the concept of the anacrusis length being subtracted from the final bar is more of an older concept that doesn't apply so much today, or at least outside of the Classical tradition. Form is much more loose now. Regarding the placement of the time signature, is it possible that this is not the beginning of the piece and that we are transitioning from another time signature? That's the only reason I can think of why it would be written this way. Sep 14, 2016 at 15:27
  • Also, for @Jmarkim, this is commonly referred to as a Pickup outside of the academic community. Sep 14, 2016 at 15:28
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    @Basstickler - doubtful that the time sig before would be 1/8 ! Pickup not to be confused with that found on electric guitars... There's not a lot wrong with anacrucis - literally 'before the downbeat'.
    – Tim
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:46
  • I'm thinking that this would be the start of a new section and the previous section could have been in any other time signature. I still wouldn't notate that this way but it's the only thing I can think of to justify it. The reason I mention Pickup, which is indeed than a pickup on an electric instrument, is that I literally have only ever heard the term anacrusis used in an academic setting (and here on SE), to the point that it's become dorky trivia for me with friends that also have a degree. This may also be a cultural difference since I'm in America and you're in England. Sep 14, 2016 at 16:33
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    Look folks - we know what piece it is. It's a music engraving error. End of.
    – Laurence
    May 18, 2017 at 16:19

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