Count bar repeats in Sibelius


Last week I had the privilege of preparing some music arranged by Christian McBride for a concert at the Apollo Theater, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of James Brown’s song “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud”. I posted an photo of the charts on our NYC Music Services social media accounts.

Pianist, composer, arranger, and loyal Scoring Notes reader Tiago Costa noticed the bar numbers in parentheses, and suggested that instructions on how to achieve this would make for a good blog post.

I’m happy to oblige!

Generally, it’s more common for the bars to be numbered not like in this example, but rather as if they are all played once straight through, so that the repeats are not considered in the bar numbering.

In this case, though, Christian’s manuscript included the second set of bar numbers, so I wanted to match what he had done. Other good reasons to do this would be if you are preparing a score which needs to match a recording or DAW session that has continuous bar numbers; this way there’s a one-for-one match between the score and the audio, without needing to write out all the repeats in the score.

This is easy to do in Sibelius, and the options are found in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Bar Numbers > Appearance.

Simply switch on the Count repeats option and choose the desired format from the drop-down menu:

  • 10: bar numbers are only drawn once, but any bar numbers after repeated sections take the number of repeated bars into account
  • 10 (20): bar numbers for repeated bars are drawn in parentheses; this is the default option and the one I used in this score
  • 10/20: the repeated bar numbers are drawn after a slash
  • 10–20: the repeated bar numbers are drawn after a dash

This brief example, taken from the Sibelius Reference, does a good job of demonstrating the effect of each of these options:

Keep in mind that switching on Count repeats and using any of these formats will not only affect the number count of repeated bars, but also any other bars after the repeated sections, even if those bars are not repeated. Put another way, in the above example, if you didn’t switch on Count repeats, the bars in the third ending would be numbered 5 and 6, not 11 and 12, and the bars in the coda would be numbered 7, 8, and 9, not 15, 16, and 17.

Did you find this helpful? Would you like to see similar posts like this on Scoring Notes? We’re always happy to take suggestions! Let us know in the comments.


  1. Tiago Costa

    Thanks again for one more helpful post, Philip.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks for suggesting the post, Tiago!

  2. Mike Crowl

    Good to know. In all the years I’ve used Sibelius, I’ve never discovered for myself that this was a feature!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Mike, I’m glad it was helpful!

  3. Andrei

    As if I needed more reasons to love Sibelius. Very helpful, Philip, thank you!!!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Great, Andrei, I’m glad you found it helpful!

  4. Waldbaer

    An interesting feature and article! This handling is not very common until today, but in my opinion even more logical than the somehow dumb traditional numbering – it even could shorten communication in rehearsals (no more “bar 34, 2nd time, please – 1st or 2nd time? 2nd!!!), if the musicians get used to it.
    Since I abandoned Sibelius from my everyday work though, I’d be rather interested if there is a way to achieve this in Finale or Dorico as well. I suppose it’s more complicated since it’s not standard? In Finale, you can workaround it using different bar number ranges (with free pre- or suffixes like /, – or brackets) and optimize their positioning. In Dorico, I never fiddled around with bar numbering so far… I’ll try to find out more about it if I find some time soon.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Waldbaer, I figured I would probably have to do a follow-up post about how to do this in the other programs. I’ll work on it – stay tuned!

  5. Pasquale Tassone

    Excellent Philip. Thank you for this and all the other useful information you provide us. In looking at an old score of mine, I find that in the drum part I have added numbers , centered over the measures that are repeated (very common for drummers!), but I cannot seem to remember nor find if Sibelius can do this automatically or did I physically enter each one of those numbers. Thoughts?
    Again., Thank you

  6. Robert Raines

    Just a wonderfully helpful article. Thank you!

  7. Carl Herlitz

    WHERE do I find Appearence and Engraving rules?? :)
    There´s only Instrument names, design and postition, reset notes and system objects under Appearence. And its impossible to search for it. Thanks

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