What are these measure numbers called. I could have just answered my own question there. See highlighted below. Who decides these? Is it the composer? You see I have noticed sometimes they are in spaces of five bars apart, other times a little longer.

Also, is this perhaps in rehearsal the conductor can say “From 39” or similar?

numbers by staff

Stravinsky, Symphony in C

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    One of the few cases, where a question would be better be placed in Music Practice and Theory instead of vice versa. – guidot Jun 6 '20 at 22:17

These are normally called 'rehearsal numbers' or 'rehearsal figures'. You're correct: the conductor will say "from number/figure 184" or just "from 184" or even "184!". Often rehearsal letters are used instead of numbers (rehearsal numbers and letters are referred to as 'rehearsal marks'), and sometimes every measure is numbered individually in a small font. The spacing can be as short as every four or five measures but sometimes they are spaced irregularly and only placed at the beginning of musical sections.
A composer might put these in themself, but if they don't the publisher will. This occasionally leads to problems if the conductor and the orchestra are using different editions with different rehearsal number systems. A publisher might have the orchestra parts for an old work computer-typeset and change the numbering system and then the conductor turns up with the score they have been using for forty years.

  • Thank you kindly :-) – cmp Jun 5 '20 at 21:37
  • It is so annoying when they (publishers or composers, it's hard to tell) put measure numbers in big boxes blindly on every tenth bar, without any regard to the structure of the music. So many times the conductor says something like "From 86", and everyone in the orchestra has to spend an extra two seconds counting measures. At least when they only put measure numbers on the beginning of each line, there is some typographical sense to that choice. – Arthur Jun 6 '20 at 10:10
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    @Arthur If the numbers don't take the musical structure into account, you can be sure the publisher put them in :) – PiedPiper Jun 6 '20 at 10:19

Rehearsal marks without doubt, for bar numbers their difference is too small.

See also this question; it is a bit unusual, that the rehearsal marks follow so close to each other, since 3rd bar after xxx is also frequently used.

I have not yet encountered three-digit ones. Rehearsal marks may also use single or at worst double letters and be surrounded by a circle instead of a box.

  • Three-digit ones very common. Any Symphony I imagine. They are very long. – cmp Jun 6 '20 at 22:17
  • @cmp: You are mistaken here. Three-digit bar numbers are usual, three-digit exercise marks are not. (You would also not need them, if they were more reasonably distributed.) Actually the Beethoven Symphony Urtexts I just looked into have none at all, just bar numbers. – guidot Jun 6 '20 at 22:24
  • Oh I see what you’re saying, pardon me. – cmp Jun 6 '20 at 22:27
  • @guidot Three-digit rehearsal numbers (not measure numbers) are common in longer works, for example Strauss "Der Rosenkavalier" is numbered at musical sections, roughly every 6-12 bars and gets up to number 310. – PiedPiper Jun 7 '20 at 8:51

That aren't measure numbers but rehearsal marks. They can signal beginning of solos, difficult sections, or any useful starting place to rehearse. To allow some freedom and for quicker finding of marks, frequent placement is recommended.

The person conducting rehearsal can indeed say: "let's start again from 39" and the players easily find where that is. It's much more practical than counting measures. Rehearsal letters instead of numbers are common.



The above site says that "Rehearsal marks (letters or numbers) are added as expressions using the Rehearsal Marks category of the Expression Selection dialog box. Using Finale's Auto-Sequencing feature, all rehearsal marks can be added with the same expression, and each will appear consecutively in the score (A, B, C…1, 2, 3…etc.). Rehearsal marks added this way also update to accommodate deleted, added, or reordered rehearsal letters automatically. Additionally, rehearsal marks are defined to display on the top staff of the score and on every part."

  • To leave feedback here: compare your answer with the others. There's other answers already calling them rehearsal marks/numbers. They also talk more about the peice and why they are used outside of just a definition. In general just a link and a quote from the link don't make a high quality answer. You need to actually link it and explain the concept a bit more like the other answers do. – Dom Jun 11 '20 at 0:37

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