'measure numbers every system' option should number first counted measure

• Jul 7, 2018 - 03:20

If the first measure in a system is excluded from the measure count - for instance, a pickup - the default 'measure numbers every system' option will not place any measure numbers on that system.

This seems to me to be a behavior people will normally not want; if people ask for the start of each system to have a number, they normally want a measure number on the first counted measure in that system. For instance, when the line has a pickup, put a measure number on the first full measure, after the pickup.

I can't imagine cases where the present behavior would be preferable, but that's because I don't exclude measures from the count except for pickups. If there's some other important use for excluding from the count, perhaps those people like the present behavior and would like to keep that option. But I think the default behavior should be for the 'number every system' option to actually try to put a number on every system.


The first measure of a song or movement does not need a measure number, so if that one is a pick up and is excluded from the measure count it should not have a measure number on it. By definition is does not have a measure number.

If there is a pickup later in the score, then it is normally taken from the previous measure (which should be short by that amount). When these measures are split, exclude the first half of the measure from the count rather than the second half (pick up). This will leave the pick up with a measure number that can be displayed at the start of the system.

By definition, any measure that is excluded from the count does not have a measure number. If the user wants it to have a measure number there are three options:

  1. Don't exclude it from the measure count - Combined this with number 2 for better results;
  2. Exlcude the first half of the measure from the count instead of the second half;
  3. Set "Add to measure count" to -1 for this measure, this will make the next full measure have the proper measure number -Don't exclude it from measure count.

In reply to by mike320

No. Excluding the first part of the split measure from being counted is wrong, especially if the split comes near the start of the measure.

Suppose my time signature is 6/8 and my first system has measures 1-4 and 5 of six beats of the fifth measure. By any reasonable way of considering things, measure 5 is on the first system not the second.

Putting '5' as the measure number at the start of line 2 is going to throw people off. It's simply a failure of basic counting. And if a director is trying to give directions, he will want to say 'pickup to measure 6' and not 'measure 5 - but not the beginning of measure 5 - let's start on the last beat of measure 5.'

The sensible way to do it is to have no measure number on the single-beat split 'pickup' measure and have a visible measure number 6. The only way to do this at present is to give up on automatic measure numbering and force 'always show' in the properties of the relevant measures, all the way through all your scores.

In reply to by Belteshazzar_

I think I was misunderstanding what you wanted in my previous post. Here's what I understand you want:

When there is a pickup measure starting a system and the option is set for the first measure of the system to have a number, display the number on the first measure not excluded from the count.

This seems to be a very reasonable expectation. If this is what you are talking about I suggest that you submit an official feature request here

Just was about to post about asking about this very issue. At least in my case, this will throw my layout off when copying scores by reference, as in my case, the pickup measure is counted as part of measure 1 and that almost made me start the entire score over because I thought I was off by 1 measure.

Just becuse the measure is not a full one, doesn't mean it's not a measure.

In reply to by Crimson Sunrise

It is not required to exclude a pickup measure from the measure count, but it is normal since pickups are considered to be part of another measure. If your score starts with a pickup, it is normal to end the song with a short measure. (This practice has largely but not totally been abandoned starting some time in the 20th Century). If you have a pickup in the middle of the song, it is normal that the previous measure is short the number of beats in the pickup measure and only one of the measures is counted. They are basically one measure with a bar line in the middle of them.

Internally, MuseScore does what you are trying to do, count every measure without regard to if it is a pickup or not. When you select the pickup measure, the status bar at the bottom left of the window calls it measure 1, the first complete measure is measure 2 and so on. If you use ctrl+f to search for measure 10, you will find the measure that MuseScore reports as measure 10 in the status bar, which may be different than the measure labeled as number 10.

@Belteshazzar_ One thing I did not previously mention is that you can change the display of measure numbers in the Measure Properties dialog. It defaults to auto, but you can change it to "Always show" if this is what you want. It only affects the selected measure.

In reply to by Crimson Sunrise

Traditionally, if there is a pick-up measure at the beginning of the work, this measure is not counted.

An incomplete measure that is complementary to this measure is found at the end of the piece. This is the actual measure to be counted.

In a normal musical sentence (8-measures long), if the pickup measure is included to count, in this case: the total number of measures is 9 . And which is also wrong.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but if you check published music that uses the convention of showing measure numbers at beginning of each system, you'll see see that it is extremely uncommon for the first measure - whether pickup or not - to get a measure number. The first system is simply skipped. That's why the default in MuseScore is to skip the first system. I don't recall ever seeing a published score that showed a "1" on the first full measure after a pickup in this context. But if you want that non-standard effect, just go to Measure Properties for that measure and set the number mode to "Always show".

If I'm misunderstanding something about what you are wanting, please attach your score and explain which measure(s) specifically you want or don't want measure numbers to display on, so we can understand better what you are asking for.

In reply to by mike320

If it's not the first system, is it really a "pickup measure"? Might be some other sort of excluded measure. Which is why I'd want to see the score in order to understand. If it's a multi-movement piece, for example, there should be section breaks, and then the first system of each movement starts over at 1, and it should again count as the "first measure". And if you do want to show the "1" on the first full measure of the movement - which, again, does not seem to be common in published music - the same method I described above should work.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

This is more common in folk type music where, for example, there is a repeat after beat 3 of a 4/4 measure and the last beat of the measure starts the next system. As you probably know, these pieces rarely use rehearsal marks so the musicians rely on measure numbers to start in the correct spot. I've seen it in hymns, which in written form are basically religious folk music.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

It's not at all uncommon to have pickup measures besides a pickup to measure 1.

There are plenty of times, especially in choral music, when it's important to have system breaks correspond to the ends and beginnings of musical phrases, which often don't begin on beat 1.

I'm having a hard time seeing what use case you might be imagining. If people ask to have measure numbers for the first measure of every system, under what circumstances do they really want to have the full system go without measure numbers?

Attaching a simple melody (folk song melody from the mid 1800s) as illustration, one with default automatic numbering - and therefore zero measure numbers in the entire piece - and one where I've measure-by-measure overridden that default to do what I think is sensible.

Attachment Size
handcart.mscz 14.3 KB
handcart2.mscz 14.48 KB

In reply to by Belteshazzar_

It may be an error or a feature that the software doesn't shows the measure number that comes after the divided (split) measure. And depending on how it is applied, the software may also show a behavioral change. (see attached mscz file) //leaving the first half of the divided measure excluded, instead of the second half.

And, as you know: it takes at most a minute to do it manually (as a workaround).

To show that the measures at the end of the line are not complete, it may be useful to show them as follows (with dotted bar line).

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handcart-Z.mscz 13.93 KB
handcart2.png 23.59 KB

I am not 100% certain but I believe that in general people just put up with that one system without a number. There is a number right above as well as one right below after all.

If you don't want to accept that the best way is not to number the incomplete measure (because the rest of the measure is on the line above and someone might get it wrong counting backwards). The best way is to number the first complete measure on the system, even if this way the number is not at the beginning of the line. As Mike says you can achieve this manually.

In reply to by azumbrunn


I'm surprised how much trouble people are having understanding this. I thought it was pretty simple. After the first half dozen misunderstandings I posted example scores in an above comment. Have you looked at those?

"in general people just put up with it" may describe MuseScore users but does not describe the rest of the world of typeset music.

There may not be "a number right above as well as one right below after all." My example score shows a simple real-world case where this bug means that there are zero line numbers in the entire piece consisting of six systems.

The fact that the number should go after the pickup measure and on the first counted measure of the system is part of the title of this forum thread, as well as dominating the second paragraph of my initial post and then being restated in several of the comments. I'm surprised you thought I needed you to tell me that.

Yes, I know how to do this manually; I did so in the second example score. But that's not very user-friendly to learn to do, it takes a little wasted effort, and dealing with long scores, multiple parts, etc all that effort will add up to a bother to maintain.

In reply to by Belteshazzar_

It sounds like thise has summarized what you expect MuseScore to do. As I said, it sounds like a reasonable expectation. You should put in a formal feature request. Someone might decided to implement it.

In reply to by Belteshazzar_

In any case you'd need an extra step, either set it up in some (not yet existing) style setting or in the (existing) measure properties. Just go for the latter.
Which version of musescore are you currently using?
See 4dc61a0 and d3c4225a96 for the recent changes to the measure numbering algorithm, in/for musescore 2.3

In reply to by Belteshazzar_

Actually, now that you have clarified that you aren't actually talking about pickup measures in the usual sense of the word but are actually talking about split measures after the first system, I have no trouble understanding your use case, and why the change you propose would make sense for handling it.

Here's the issue in action.

As you can see, the score is copied correctly (original on top), the measures are entered correctly but...Musescore insists that measure 6 should be measure 5 instead, regardless of it internally counting and displaying the number correctly (not really, notice that the measure counter on bottom right shows measure 6 while the status bar shows measure 7 in the same selected measure) in the status bar. If I pass this score to a player, said player will have problems performing the piece, since the numbers are incorrectly printed on the score and there are no rehearsal marks and even those would be printed wrong because...The measure numbers are not correct.

Also, there's no apparent way to fix it either.

In reply to by Crimson Sunrise

You are talking about something totally different. And indeed, the case you describe is quite simple to handle - just be sure not to exclude the measure from the count. This is set for you by default if you tell MuseScore about the pickup when you first create the score, because it is the standard way most published music is edited, but if you want to copy the non-standard numbering shown in your example, just clear that option.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I believe the issue for the case I showed a few months ago lies more in the fact that the UI doesn't seem to respect how the score is set up. Sure, there are 7 measures in the example, but the program shouldn't make you doubt which measure you're actually in or force you to add or subtract one measure mentally. You're not really off by one, but the program makes you think you are. If the pickup measure is excluded from the count, why is the UI counting it and displaying your position as if you didn't exclude said measure from the count in the first place?

In reply to by Crimson Sunrise

In the pickup measure one of two things has been done in the measure properties (right click a measure and click Measure Properties...) Either the measure has Exclude from measure count checked or Add to measure is set to -1. Fix this and the measure number will be displayed like you want.

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