On Location : Number Repeated Measures in Finale & Sibelius

When the same bar of music is repeated over and over, it’s common to indicate the the repeated pattern in subsequent bars using a single bar repeat sign, notated with a single slash with two dots:

However, if there are more than a few of these in a row, it’s pretty easy for the performers to get disoriented without some sort of numerical reference. So, it’s common practice to indicate the current number of the repeated measures by placing a number over every other measure, or every four measures:

In some cases, the numbers appear over every measure.

Sometimes, it’s desirable to number ostinato patterns which remain written out. That is, the one bar repeat sign doesn’t replace the notation, but the iterations of the pattern are numbered above each measure, or every n bars:


Both Finale and Sibelius offer tools to help you number repeated measures for either of these situations.


In later versions of Finale, one-bar repeats are applied as a Staff Style.

Located in Plugins > Measures > Number Repeated Measures, Finale’s plugin for numbering offers a functional, but spartan solution. The plugin works regardless of whether you are using one-bar repeats or displaying the actual notation.

Because the plugin runs immediately without a dialog, there are no controls to change the font for the numbers, or to specify vertical location over the staff, or frequency of the numbers beforehand. The font, size and attributes are preset, as is the text’s vertical position above the staff. An additional caveat with the plugin is that each time you run the plugin, you are adding new text to Finale’s Expression list.

Finale’s Category Designer offers a solution for the limitations of the plugin. Creating a new “Number Repeat Bars” Category allows us to control the look and location of numbered repeat bars:

Apply the “One-Bar Repeat” Staff Style on the region you want to change, then run the “Number Repeated Measures” plugin on the same region. Now:

  • Go to Document > Category Designer
  • Select the Technique Text category and duplicate it.
  • Rename this new category “Numbered Repeat Bars” or similar
  • For the Category’s positioning, set Justification to “center”
  • For Horizontal Alignment, set to “Center Over / Under music”
  • Set an additional horizontal offset of -.667 spaces (in an unmodified Finale Default File)**
  • For Vertical Alignment, if appearing above single bar repeat signs, use Staff Reference Line +1 space.
  • (for numbers above notated ostinato passages, use Above Staff Baseline or Entry).
  • Change the Text Font and Style to your preference.
  • OK the Category Designer dialogs.

** The actual amount of the horizontal offset required to center the text numbers is related to the current values in “Spacing Before Music” and “Spacing After Music” found in the Notes and Rest Section of Document Options.

If the spacing before and after music is identical, the offset is zero. If the “Spacing Before Music” has a greater value than the “Spacing After Music”, the “Additional Horizontal Offset” will be 1/2 the difference between them as a *negative* offset.  If the “Spacing After Music” has a greater value than the “Spacing Before Music” value, the “Additional Horizontal Offset” will be 1/2 the difference between them as a *positive* offset.


Now, enter the Expressions list by double clicking on of the numbers above the bars. The numbers created by the plugin will all be in the Miscellaneous Category. SHIFT-Click or CNTRL-Click (windows) or CMND-Click (mac) these numbers to select them, and while they are highlighted chose the “Numbered Repeat Bars” category in the “Move To” popup. The numbers will all move to the new Category, and should inherit the new category settings. If they do not, use “Reset to Category Font and Positioning”.

Close the Expression Dialog, and all of the numbers should appear according to the new settings you created in the Category Designer.

To change the frequency of the numbering, simply clear the unwanted numbers in your score.

Note that the plugin specially looks for repetitive material, so in order for it to work on a section of music set with 1-bar repeat Staff Style, you’ll need music underneath the 1-bar repeat Staff Style. (if you are playing back the score, this is probably what you want anyway).

If you typically only indicate these repeat bar numbers every two or four bars, here is an addition you might consider for your template. This doesn’t use the plugin at all, but allows you to quickly enter the numbered repeat text with your preferred font and location:

In the Expression Selection Dialog, navigate to Technique text and create a new Expression for the number “2” (or “4” if every 4 bars). Uncheck “Use Category Fonts” and “Use Category Position” in the Expression Designer so it no longer follows the look and location rules of Technique Text. Set the font and location appropriate for numbered repeat bars. Duplicate this expression and change the text in each so you have “4”, “8”, “12” and “16” or whatever you typically need. Now assign a key shortcut to these new entries.

Tip: Create a special “Number Repeated Bars” Category in a “New Document Without Libraries”. Add the numbers to the Category as above. Now, select “Save Library” from the File menu, and check “Text Expressions”. Any time you need to number repeated bars in a new document, Open the library file and your Category and its contents will be available to you in your new score.

While not totally automated, this method has several advantages – you are already entering the numbers with the look and location you prefer; you can even optionally display the numbers boxed or bracketed. Also, since you are using existing text expressions, you won’t wind up with multiple entries cluttering up your file.


In Sibelius, the one bar repeat symbol is graphically a different type of bar rest display. To apply 1-bar repeats, select the range of bars, then choose the Repeat Bar symbol in the 5th Keypad.

In Engraving Rules > Bar Rests, you’ll find a Repeat Bars section of the dialog where you control the frequency of the numbering, and optionally restart the numbering automatically at double bars or rehearsal marks:

To change the font, size and attributes of these numbers, you’ll need to navigate to “Edit Text Styles” and locate the “Repeat Bar Numbers” style. The vertical location of these numbers can be changed in Default Positions under “Vertical position relative to staff”.

While Sibelius’ built-in feature works for passages using the 1-bar repeat symbol, it does not work on ostinato passages which use standard notation. For this case, you can use the “Number Bars” plugin to number repeated bars of this type. You’ll find this plugin under “Text” in both Sibelius 6 and 7.

The Number Bars plugin allows you to control the appearance of the numbers, how frequently the bars should be numbered, and where the bars should be positioned. It has several nice features, including the ability to add a prefix and suffix character, as well as options to reset the counter at double barlines and rehearsal marks, etc.

You may note in the plugin dialog, the “Repeat Bar Numbers” Text Style isn’t available as an option. This is because that text style is a special type of System Text, so it isn’t available to the plugin. The five available choices are all default styles, available in every document, and are all Staff Styles, so they will only be applied to a single staff.


If you need more flexibility, another numbering option which will work with either program is to create and save several different series of repeat bar numbers in a separate file (or as an “Idea” in Sibelius): every bar, every two bars, every four bars. You could then filter for this text only, and copy and paste these numbers from this “clipboard” document into your new score at the required locations, where it would retain whatever settings you had defined for the numbers.

That’s it for now…


related info : Finale Number Repeated Measures Plug-in (excerpt from Finale Manual)
related article : Sibelius Drum Set Notation : Repeat / Slash / Rhythmic by John Hinchey

2 Replies to “On Location : Number Repeated Measures in Finale & Sibelius”

  1. Hi
    Trying to put measure numbers into a big band drum part I get to the stage where I highlighted the region then try to run the plug-in and I keep getting this message
    “ no measures repeated at least three times were found “
    Not sure why

    1. Hi Martin – Sounds like you are using one bar or two bar repeats or slashes over empty measures in Finale. That message means that Finale is looking for repeated bars with identical content. A good way to think of Staff Styles like repeats and slashes is as an overlay. Finale is not looking at your staff styles, it only considers the music behind the overlay staff styles. In order for the repeat measures plugin to work, you need to copy the content from the first bar that you are repeating into the bars that are showing the repeat or slash staff styles and run the plugin again. At that point, the plugin sees that the *music* in those bars are all the same and will number accordingly.

      It would be useful if Finale could create a variation of the”Number Repeated Bars” plugin which was “Number Consecutive Bars” – which didn’t consider content at all. The “number repeated bars is useful in a classical setting where everything is written out, but falls short for big band and jazz charts where there is more shorthand using the “overlay” staff styles. Hope that helps.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.