How to Input Pick Up Notes or Anacrusis

I thought I would share how I finally figured out the decimal system to enter pick-up notes.

The first step is to determine the beat unit of your time signature (denominator).

Then use the popover window Shift M, enter your meter, then a comma, and the number of beat units (or portions of a beat) for your pick-up.

In 4/4, if you wanted to add a quarter note pick-up, you type: 4/4,1 because a quarter note is 1 beat unit.

4/4,.5 is an eighth note pick-up because it’s half of a beat unit
4/4,1.5 is a dotted quarter pick-up
4/4,2 is a half note pick up.

The same system works for ¾, 2/4, or any other meter with the quarter as the beat unit.

If the meter is 2/2 and you want to enter a quarter note pick up: 2/2,.5

For compound meters, the eighth note is the beat unit, so if you wanted to add an eight note pick-up, you would NOT enter 6/8,.5 like in 4/4, you would enter 6/8,1 since an eighth note is only 1 beat unit in compound meters.

9/8,3 = a dotted quarter pick-up because 3 beat units (eighth) equals a dotted quarter.
12/8,.5 = 16th note pick-up

Hope that helps.


The pertinent manual page is here, and explains it pretty well, I think.


@dan_kreider. I didn’t stumble on that as I couldn’t find a subheading for pick up, nor did I see that when I searched “pick-up” or other possible terms. It is a bit under explained. But thank you for finding it. Would be nice if there was a sub-heading.

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Hi Beth, sorry you weren’t able to find the docs for adding pick-up bars. There is an introduction/explanation of what pick-up bars here, where you can find other names (like anacrusis) and the explanation that they exist as part of a time signature. You can then find dedicated steps for adding pick-up bars here (which was added in the 3.5 manual separately from time signatures for this exact reason, to help users who are looking for this specifically).

I’ll make a note of the idea of having a separate table for pick-up bars on the time signatures popover page, with perhaps a few more examples.


Thanks for this, Beth. Gotta say, this design is slightly anti-musical, in that the beat unit in 6/8, 9/8 etc is really a dotted quarter. I spent way too much time trying to make this work until stumbling on the idea that 1=eighth note in 9/8, because I was figuring that .3=eighth note. Haha! No, I’m not expecting Dorico to allow me to establish the beat unit, because the company has other things to fix, but still…

I mean, 3 x .3 isn’t 1… :sunglasses:

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Believe me, I had my calculator out!

If it helps, the v4 manual page for the time signatures popover does indeed include a separate table to pick-up bars with examples spelled out more specifically. There’s an example for a 6/8 time signature with pick-up that should demonstrate entering e.g. 2 for 2 eighth notes in the pick-up. There’s also a note that clarifies the link between the note value/rhythmic unit in the time signature and how that relates to pick-up beats.

Thank you!
I’ve had just the same problem. This was very revealing.