How to create a pickup bar (or measure)

I’ve searched and searched, and I just can’t find clear directions on how to create a pickup bar at the beginning of my choral score. (I’ve searched this forum, as well as the “Help” tab in Dorico 3.)

I have several pieces that are in need of this very basic operation. It seems to me that there would be concise (and complete) directions for this somewhere. I have searched every menu that I can find in the program, and have left- and right-clicked on everything that seems clickable.

Would someone who knows how please take a moment to spell it out for the record?

To be perfectly clear, I need to know how to create less-than-a-full-measure at the beginning of a song.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Welcome back to the forum Jack, I recently added dedicated steps for inputting pick-up bars to the 3.5 documentation (which should still work even in earlier versions). You can use two different methods - popover (keyboard-based) and panel (mouse-based).

Thanks, Lillie. I was able to fiddle around with it and figure it out.

One note about my own experience here that might be helpful to you: The instructions to which you linked (mouse-based) do not continue with the language used in the article’s title: " Inputting pick-up bars with the panel"

Rather, they drop the language that got me there (wanting to create a pickup bar), and substitute language language about creating a new time signature. Naturally, I think I’m lost at that point, because I didn’t come to create a new time signature; I came to create a pickup measure.

See what I mean?

So in this case, I can be reading the right directions, but be thinking that they aren’t the right directions at all for what I want to do—because the nomenclature changes midstream. To the programmer, it’s simple, but to the user, I have no idea that programmers consider “creating a pickup bar” and “creating a new time signature” to be the same thing.

Hope this helps!


Interesting to hear that. I used the phrase “time signature with pick-up bar” because pick-up bars aren’t a separate item; they only exist in the context of the time signature, so in the long-term, it’s important and helpful for you to learn about the relationship (for instance, if you input a pick-up bar alongside the “wrong” time signature for the rest of the music, all the subsequent barlines get moved to match the new time signature).

The first sentence spells out this relationship: “You can input pick-up bars as part of time signatures”

There is also a separate topic about pick-up bars that both includes alternative synonyms and describes how they operate in Dorico (as part of time signatures).

=====I used the phrase “time signature with pick-up bar” because pick-up bars aren’t a separate item;=====

Well, they are to me. I already HAD a time signature in my piece. And when I created it, nothing flagged me and said “You know, Jack, pick-up bars are included in time signature creation—would you like to create a pick-up bar now?”

Not to beat it to death, but all that significantly increases the cognitive load on the already-frustrated user who is thinking, “Look, all I need to do is put in a pickup note.” The very thing he does NOT want to do is to stop at that frustrated moment and get a global view of the architecture of Dorico. The end user most likely is not thinking like a programmer, but like a musician.

I’m very thankful for your program, and I don’t want to come across as hostile here. But at the risk of being dismissed without having made my point, I’ll venture to say that there’s a significant difference between how a programmer thinks and how a user thinks. And the directions need to be written from the USER’S point of view. This means keeping the nomenclature simple, and not over-complicating things by trying to make a teaching unit out of somebody trying to do a simple task. Sure, it’s “easy” in the programmer’s mind, because he or she programmed it that way. But don’t be surprised if someone who is not a programmer would never think of it that way in a million years.

I have very similar frustrations with Dorico on a number of tasks that should be simple. It is not intuitive, and searching for it takes forever. And frequently—as with this present occasion—the nomenclature leaves me wondering whether the directions I have found really go with the task I want to achieve or not. In my opinion (being not a programmer, but a former project manager for a website and mobile app and a webmaster for many sites), your team have gravitated too far towards the programmer mindset and too far away from the user mindset. And being a student of cognitive science for 8 years, I’m certain that I’m really onto something regarding the cognitive overload.

I really did spend a LOT of time searching and reading. A LOT. I searched the program, the discussion forum, YouTube, and a search engine. It’s very frustrating—especially for an expensive program like this. And I very often walk away defeated, not being able to accomplish what should be simple tasks in my scores. And I’m not someone that most people would call stupid or slow. I’m an author, teacher, webmaster, and philosopher.

It does me very little good to have a program that can do a thousand things if I can’t figure out how to make it do 900 of them. And running into such defeats frequently, I find that I get negative-emotion associations with Dorico—which makes me want to use it even less.

If I were to use it daily—and to go through all these struggles, I’d eventually come to see it more as your programmers do. But for the money I paid, it would be fantastic if someone over there would review your manuals, re-approaching the material from the novice user’s point of view. I would pay $200 this minute for a well-constructed and thorough manual of that nature. Indeed, a few months ago, I hired a Dorico tutor for $80 just to show me how to do some of the things I haven’t been able to figure out in months of using the program a few times a month.

As it is, I estimate (roughly) that there’s roughly a 50% chance that when I look something up, I’m not going to find out how to do the task before I give up trying.

So that’s my frequent frustration. I know this may come across like I’m just lashing out. But if I were the boss over there, I’d want to know that I’ve got customers with these frustrations. So it’s in good faith that I write you these things.


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After mulling it over, I think in this instance yes I can roll back the nouns in the steps to simply “pick-up bars” and leave the clarification of the time signature consequences to the result, without being too inconsistent about how pick-up bars actually work.

Significant work to rewrite the manual’s introduction chapter to guide new users fully through a “demo” project is very much planned. Thanks for the feedback.

Hello, I think that the way Dorico seems to deal with this is by use of such terms 4/4 + 1 ( I think !) which means 4/4 time with a beat at the beginning.

It is a bit peculiar to Dorico - In Sibelius the term ‘anacrucis’ - which is what is intended - is dealt with as a separate item.

Hope this helps


The correct term is anacrusis, as far as I know.

This Sibelius dialog (which was the standard time signature dialog before the ribbon came along, and can still be accessed from Notations > Time Signature > More Options) has used the term “pickup” for as long as I can remember, and you’ll note that it’s handled as part of the time signature. Dorico and Sibelius handle pickup bars (or anacruses) in remarkably similar ways.

With respect, I dont agree: Sibelius shows you a panel and you select from the options, or create your own time signature, whereas to use the popover, you have to know the specific code to enter into the box. I think that this is what Jack Pelham means when he refers to the difference between an interface that thinks like a musician (Sibelius) versus one that thinks like a programmer (Dorico).

Unfortunately, I have to report that, although I have been working with the program since the beginning, every time I sit down to do something with Dorico, I have to spend a lot of time searching the manual for what are quite simple things, frequently not knowing the keyword to search on, and I leave the session frustrated. Of course, this is not the only activity I engage in as a musician. Others, full time composers, for instance, who spend every day working with Dorico no doubt find the learning process more efficient. That said, it is amazing how many questions there are in this forum asking how to do quite simple things.

Please take these criticisms in the spirit in which they are intended: i. e. kindly, with the hope that we can learn and progress! :grinning:


Sorry David, I was aiming to compare the Dorico panel with the Sibelius dialog.
As to the underlying structure, both programs handle “pick-up” bars as an extension to the time signature, and both programs use the same terminology.

My reply was specifically to Bill, and specific to the differences between Sibelius and Dorico (which seem to me to be small in this area).

Thank you for your reply (I really must learn to spell !) I hope that this small venture into a small but important set up on Dorico will be helpful : yes, there are some aspects of Dorico which can be daunting, but with helpful replies on this forum many of these can be sorted out - Thanks again pianoleo !


Don’t forget this panel:
Skjermbilde 2021-01-23 kl. 21.32.37
(though I certainly see your point in other areas of Dorico - i.e beat groupings)

Thank you! I never stumbled across that panel, neither in the program nor in the manual, but then, the latter is large and I have never managed to read all through it.

However, as I mentioned above, the many forum postings by experienced musicians who, like me, find the most trivial of tasks daunting in Dorico points to some problem in learning the program.


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You would be surprised which stupidly simple things I couldn’t do in Sibelius when I first started.
I clearly remember that, after opening it for the first time, I couldn’t get anything to appear for 10 minutes and then closed the app again for probably a year.
It was probably around 10 years ago, and I was rather a kid, with too little English knowledge to ask in a forum.
But: intuitive is what one is used to. Notation isn’t intuitive at all by nature.