Bar Number Flexibility for Score & Parts in Finale & Sibelius

In both Finale and Sibelius, one simple and common way to separately control bar number size, location and frequency is to save off a separate copy of the final score as a Parts Score. However, while this is one way to achieve precise control, for bar numbers, at least, this isn’t really necessary, since both programs offer plenty of flexibility for displaying different bar number settings between the score and integrated parts.

Typically, bar numbers appear somewhat larger in the score than in the parts, and sometimes, bar numbers are bold or italic in one view, but not in another. As an example, for an orchestral pops chart or a film score soundtrack where a tabloid score and 9×12 parts are specified, bar numbers frequently appear nearly twice as large in the score as they do in the parts, and bar numbering may appear on every bar of both the score and parts, or on every bar in the score only, with the parts showing bar numbers at the start of every system.

Once you know where everything is, it’s quite straightforward in both Finale and Sibelius to create a separate score and parts “House Style” for bar numbers:


In Sibelius 6, go to Edit Text Styles (in Sibelius 7 or later, it’s found in the Styles Group of the Text Tab). You’ll notice two bar numbers text styles next to each other in the list – “Bar numbers” and “Bar numbers (parts)”. You probably noticed that these Bar Numbers text styles already allow you to specify a separate font size for score and parts, just like any other text style, however, if we use the separate “Bar numbers (parts)” text style, we’ll also have unique control of the bar number *location*. Furthermore, using the separate text style, we can also  change attributes such as bold or italics, if we want those different between the parts and score.

To make the parts use the “Bar numbers (parts)” text style we’ll need to assign it. In Sibelius 6, find the Multipart Appearance button on the Parts Window. In Sibelius 7, locate the Part Appearance drop-down in the Layout Group of the Parts Tab. Once in the dialog, click on the House Style tab. You’ll see the drop-down menu for Bar Number Text style there, and you can change it to “Bar numbers (parts)” for all parts, or optionally a subset of parts.

Horizontal and vertical positioning for Bar Numbers as well as display frequency and which staves to show them on is found in House Style > Engraving Rules > Bar Numbers.

Most often, all of the parts will share the same bar number “House Style”. Set the bar numbers (and any other settings you might want to be shared with all of the parts) with one part forward. With the part still forward, export as a house style, and then import this back into all of the parts so they all share the same settings.

As expected, the Vertical Position setting is global for all parts. However, it’s worth noting that the various settings in the Appearance panel of the Bar Numbers window, as well as Horizontal Positioning can be unique for every part (bring the part forward, open the Engraving Rules > Bar Numbers, and modify).

Bar number attributes and positioning can also be completely independent between parts. One nice feature of this text style assignment mechanism is that it actually allows you to have more than two discreet bar numbers text styles within the same score, and this allows you to have independent vertical (and horizontal) placement for every part, should you want this.

For instance, to display bar numbers above the staff on some parts, and below it on others, you can create a new “Bar numbers (parts)” text style based on the existing one, rename it, and assign it to one or more parts. Changing the vertical positioning of this bar number text style will not change the vertical positioning in the other parts, and the horizontal positioning will be separately controllable, too. This, in essence, allows you to create any number of custom bar number styles for specialty cases, such as “Bar numbers (choir)” and “Bar numbers (bass clef instruments)”.

Simply create a new text style based on the existing “Bar numbers (parts) style, modify it as needed, then apply this unique Bar Number text style to a group of bass clef parts, or to a single choir part, and these will retain their unique horizontal and vertical bar number placement (as well as font, size and style, of course).


In Finale, each bar number region can be defined to have separate settings for the score and parts which includes display frequency, font characteristics such as size, bold or italic, and bar number location.

Select the Measure Number tool from the main Tool Palette or the Tools menu, then choose Measure > Edit Measure Number Regions… Notice that the Measure Number dialog has both “Score” and “Linked Parts” tabs. Set up the bar numbers for the score first, then click the Linked Parts Tab. Here, you can either use the Score settings, or choose unique font, size and positioning settings for the Parts.

Bar Numbers can appear attached to the Top Staff, the Bottom Staff, or specific staves:

To have Finale display bar numbers only on specific staves of the score, uncheck both Top Staff and Bottom Staff in the Measure Number dialog, then out in the score itself, you can check or uncheck Measure Numbers in the Staff Attributes for each staff (using the Global Staff Attributes plugin makes quick work of this).

The Measure Numbers dialog allows you to set the font, size and position of bar numbers for (1) Start of Staff System, (2) every X measures, and (3) for multimeasure rests and their ranges, and these can be different for score and parts.

Sometimes, it is desirable to show multi-measure rest number ranges under the bottom staff of both grand staff and single line parts while showing the regular bar numbers above the top staff at the start of each system. To do this from the Linked Parts tab, first, check “Show On : Top Staff” for “Start of Staff System”, and optionally set the same positioning for “Every X Measures Beginning With Measure X”. Make sure that “Show Multimeasure Rests” is *unchecked*. Now, add a second bar number region (1-999), and uncheck everything *except* “Show on Multimeasure Rests”. For this Region, make sure that “Show On : Bottom Staff” is checked. Now, the bar numbers will appear above the top staves regardless of whether the part is a grand staff or single line part, while the the multirests will appear below the bottom staff.

In commercial music, it is standard practice to show bar numbers under bottom staff on every bar. Finale’s separate adjustments for bar numbering works great in this context, allowing bar numbers under the staff to appear left or right justified so that they will clear clef tails at the start of each system, while at the same time, keeping other bar numbers centered under every barline, while keeping multirest range numbers centered under the rests.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it.


10 Replies to “Bar Number Flexibility for Score & Parts in Finale & Sibelius”

  1. Great article Robert! Another technique I use in Sibelius, I’ve created a text style for “Bar numbers (Parts BC)” for bass clef, C clef and percussion clef parts. On treble clef parts with bar numbers below you’ve got to allow for the clef hanging down, on the left side of the staff system. But on BC parts you do don’t need that extra space.

    1. Nan,

      For concert / symphonic pops material, most common I have seen is bar numbers at the start of every system, with measure ranges showing under multi rests.


  2. Thanks for your tips, as always. Never thought to create a duplicate region for the sole purpose of MM rests. Just want to mention that this dialogue box is super helpful for people in the musical theater world, or any other context that would insert or delete bars of music throughout a rehearsal process. Using multiple regions, you can add prefixes/suffixes to create m. 12A-12F, for example, or jump from m. 24 to 58 because “that dance break was far too long”, etc. Sometimes the math gets confusing (and it makes it a pain to select the “correct” measure for playback since its labeled differently) but when you want to retain bar numbers in the midst of constant changes, this feature is your friend!

  3. Do these settings also work when “extracting parts” rather than using “linked parts”?

    I know – I’m old school – I prefer extracting parts….


    1. Hi Tom,

      great question – as far as I am aware, unless there is a bug in the software not allowing you to do this, functionality should be exactly the same.

      With thanks

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