I’m in common time (4/4) and I have a pickup measure with only a quarter note in it. Should it have a measure number?

  • 4
    The answer is definitely "no". Unfortunately, much free sheet music is created with badly programmed software that thinks it is "yes", but you shouldn't let that mislead you. Mar 22 '20 at 8:11
  • If you really want to give it number, give it a zero. Mar 24 '20 at 13:12

No, a pickup measure will not be counted as measure 1 in a score. Instead, the first full measure following the pickup will be labeled as measure 1.

But it's not that this pickup will never be counted; traditionally, the last measure of a piece will have the duration of the pickup subtracted from its total duration. As such, the final measure will be counted, and the pickup ultimately is counted as a part of that final measure.

  • 1
    Put simply, anything but a full bar is the anacrucis, so won't be bar 1. Even if it's a virtually full bar with only a quaver rest and 3 1/2 beats worth of notes.
    – Tim
    Mar 22 '20 at 7:51
  • Can you clarify - it seems there's a school of thought that believes that if the '1st' bar is written as a full bar, with the appropriate rests, then that is in fact bar 1. (as in a crotchet anacrucis written as a bar with 3 crotchet rests and a note). Which then might mess up the end of that section!
    – Tim
    Mar 22 '20 at 8:47
  • Is there any benefit, other than tradition, for making the last measure a partial measure when there's a pickup partial-measure? Mar 22 '20 at 19:18
  • 1
    @GregMartin - often, there is a repeat of that section (verse 2, for example) so having the 1st and last bars add up to 1 bar is easier and tidier. Mostly convention, but it sort of makes more sense that way.
    – Tim
    Mar 23 '20 at 9:01

No. Pickup measures by definition are partial measures and do not count as "bar no. 1" or the "first measure."

However, if your "pickup" measure is actually a full measure with rests in the first beat(s) then yes, that would be the first full "measure" of the song.

Don't forget to add the remaining beats of that pick-up measure to the end of your score. If your pickup measure has one beat, then your final bar should have three beats (in 4|4 time as stated by the OP).

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  • This seems like a contradiction!
    – Tim
    Mar 22 '20 at 7:48
  • Is there any benefit, other than tradition, for making the last measure a partial measure when there's a pickup partial-measure? Mar 22 '20 at 19:18
  • @Tim What do you believe is a contradiction? Please be more specific. Mar 23 '20 at 8:04
  • Are you saying that if a pick-up bar is a full bar, then it's bar 1? Is it still a pick-up bar then? That's my confusion.
    – Tim
    Mar 23 '20 at 8:08
  • @Tim Ah ok I should've put the term "pick-up bar" inside quotation marks. A full measure is a measure that has all the beats of its time signature. If the OP's work in 4|4 time begins with a "bar" of four beats, then that would be counted as "measure 1" or bar 1. The correct use of the term "pick up bar" is a partial / incomplete measure, as I explain in the beginning of my answer. Mar 23 '20 at 8:27

Only if it's a full measure. So if you've got a half rest, an eighth rest, and then a beat and a half of pickup notes, it counts. If you just lead in with a beat and a half of pickup notes, the first numbered measure is the next one.

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