Bar Numbers and Repeat Endings

Hey there!
A common convention regarding Bar Numbers and Repeat Endings is taking the Repeat Ending boxes (1.2. etc.) and treating them as a single measure (the same bar number). Currently, Dorico assigns consecutive Bar Numbers to Repeat Ending measures, and this behavior can be changed by adding a Bar Number Change easily, but it would be great if there was an option to not count Bar Numbers in Repeat Endings.
I attach an example of a Henle Edition that shows this kind of numbering.


That’s interesting, I’ve never seen such as this.
I am mostly used to wind bands - what music are you talking about?
No offence intended whatsoever, I’m genuinely curious.

It’s common in classical music editions (and critical commentaries) to refer to the bars in a first time ending as say 15a, 16a, and the corresponding bars in the second time ending as 15b, 16b.

That makes sense if you consider them as alternative versions of the same music with small differences because of the repeat. It also means that if the music has consistent phrase lengths (e.g. 4 bars per phrase), the bar numbers don’t get out of sync with the phrases just because there is a repeat with 1st and 2nd time endings.

But if you want to use bar numbers for rehearsal purposes, it makes sense to count every bar line as a new bar number, to make it easier for those who have to count on their fingers :wink:

Thanks, Rob, for your complete answer! It’s pretty interesting what you say! :wink:
(Estigy, Rob overtook me! Hahaha)

Reopening this thread, because I would like to understand how to change bar numbering at repeats.

Should I simply insert the Primary number at the first bar after the repeat barline? For example, if the last bar number before repeat was ‘24’, I simply insert ‘24’ as the new Primary number in the following bar.

Or should I use one of the other bar numbering streams?


Would it be preferable to set Bar numbering for repeated sections to Count repeats on the Bar Numbers page of Engraving Options?

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I’m not sure I made myself clear when asking.

If I understand correctly by examining what this option is doing, it seems to me it is counting all the measures of a repeated section (or not).

What I’m trying to do is to avoid the two bars on the opposite sides of a repeat barline to be counted as two bars, instead of one. For example, in this passage I have the two bars counted as one, and this was achieved with the method described in my first post:

As you can see, the two bars with the two options (before and after repeat) are both #24. Maybe I’m not doing the right thing, but the Count repeats option in the Engraving options seems to be leaving these untouched.


I think that’s a really bad idea, but if you want to do it, you will indeed need to use a bar number change to achieve it.

Actually, that’s what @Rob_Tuley mentioned some time ago in this thread:

The expected would result in both measures being numbered the same way but with a and b subordinates (17a, 17b), as G. Henle does in their editions.


Yes, and I found it in a Bärenreiter Urtext edition. I find it logical, since with the old symmetry of 4+4 bars, you would otherwise end with phrases starring on an even-numbered bar after the repeat.



Weird ending numbering is actually really common in Broadway, and really in any kind of music that gets “workshopped.” There may be a need to insert an ending in some parts, but not all as the librarian or copyist won’t want to unnecessarily reprint all the parts that were unaffected. Obviously for rehearsals the bar numbers will still need to match for the rest of the music, so the parts modified with endings may get ending numbers like 24a, 24b or similar.

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Indeed (I know you know this; I’m just throwing my hat into the ring as well) the A and B are the important bits. I completely agree with Daniel that you shouldn’t have two “24” bars, but “24a” and “24b” seems to be a perfectly legitimate convention and reasonable [FR], even if it’s less common these days.

I also agree with Rob whom you quote, that it makes most sense in the context of regularly phrased music where there are only slight variations in the repeats, necessitated perhaps by the cadential structure of the second repeat. A second ending that has no recourse to the contents of the first is perhaps better served by individual numbers, although no doubt someone will be quick to demonstrate an exception to this observation.

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OK, I will revise my earlier opinion that this is a really bad idea to “a really bad idea in most circumstances”. In very regularly phrased music, or in music for a single player, or if it is reproducing an explicit instruction from a composer in an urtext edition, then perhaps there is a case for it – but otherwise I think it’s a pretty solid principle that every bar should be uniquely numbered.


Bar numbers serve just three purposes:

  1. In rehearsal to start everyone at the same place.
  2. As reference points for analysis.
  3. To calculate payments for arrangers.

There are ancient practices where some parts have 1st and 2nd time bars whilst others have simple repeats. But Dorico cannot implement those.

So I fully support @dspreadbury 's assertion that every bar should be uniquely numbered!

Which is very good (I mean Dorico’s way). I remember precious rehearsal time wasted when some musicians in the orchestra had different double bars and repeats than others, or different from what was in the score. It is such a bad idea.
Also: playing from different editions, one counting the repeat as one bar, the other as two. Or different rehearsal marks… I’ve seen it all. I agree with Janus: bar numbers are just for reference. There’s nothing mystical about them (except, sometimes, in Bach). They are not part of the music, and should be as straightforward as possible.

This Scoring Notes podcast with Emily Grishman was a mini-masterclass in bar numbering:

It made me appreciate the value of numbering every bar for school ensembles because this can save much wasted rehearsal time; so it’s not just good practice when preparing music for for session musicians.

Dorico makes proper bar numbering super easy, so for what it’s worth, I don’t think it would be good to build in a feature that could lead to confusion in rehearsals.

Elaine Gould (p. 237) shows the 8a, 9a etc. system for repeat endings and then the straight-through system, the latter recommended for ensemble music. Major publishers like Henle, Wiener Urtext, Peters etc. use the 8a, 9a etc. system extensively, sometimes with no number actually shown so it appears as if the measure is unnumbered. For that reason, both systems should be easily implemented in Dorico.