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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?

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    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. – Kilian Foth Mar 22 at 8:11
  • If you really want to give it number, give it a zero. – Elements in Space Mar 24 at 13:12
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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.

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    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 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 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? – Greg Martin Mar 22 at 19:18
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    @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 at 9:01
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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 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? – Greg Martin Mar 22 at 19:18
  • @Tim What do you believe is a contradiction? Please be more specific. – NickGrooves Mar 23 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 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. – NickGrooves Mar 23 at 8:27
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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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