If you’ve ever before read sheet music, you’ve without doubt come across a pickup measure (aka anacrusis/upbeat/incomplete measure). And also while you may have actually a basic idea of what these are all about, perhaps you still have actually some unanswered questions around them (I know I did when I began playing the piano!).

You are watching: An incomplete measure at the beginning of a piece of music is called a pickup or an upbeat.

In this article, friend will find out all over there is come know about pickup measures, so the you can challenge them confidently in her future music endeavors. Let’s obtain started!

A simple anacrusis example from a piece dubbed “Song the the Dark Woods” through Elie Siegmeister. The an initial measure is a pickup measure up or anacrusis, and the note “d” is a pickup note here.

A pickup measure (formal name: anacrusis) is a partial measure of note that comes before the downbeat (strong beat) that the first, full measure. It is sometimes additionally called one “incomplete measure” or an “upbeat”. The notes of the pickup measure are referred to as “pickup notes”. Due to the fact that a pickup measure is “incomplete”, the must always be completed at the end of a music piece/section by an additional partial measure, so that the an outcome is one finish measure.

Composers use pickup steps when they execute not desire to start a item of music ~ above a solid (down) beat. Think of the song “Happy Birthday”. The first strong to win in this track actually drops on the “birth” component of words “birthday”, no on words “happy”. Due to the fact that of this, “Happy Birthday” needs to start v a pickup measure. Here is what this looks favor written down:


No. Due to the fact that it’s not a complete measure, we carry out not counting a pickup measure together the first measure of a piece of music when we space numbering measures. The only exemption to this would certainly be if the pickup note in a measure up are preceded by rests, so the the total variety of beats add up to a complete measure. In that case, we would certainly count this as a complete measure and also number it measure up 1.

Having one “incomplete measure” on our hands type of offers us the urge to finish it, doesn’t it? Well, this is in reality something we need to do in music. In fact, every pickup measure must be perfect at the finish of a piece/section that music so that the full equals to one full measure. Let’s look in ~ a couple of examples that this from real musical pieces.

Image #1
Image #2

Image #1: We deserve to see that we space in typical time (4/4 time). Our pickup measure has two beats, which means we need two an ext beats to have actually a complete measure.Image #2: We finish the pickup measure v the two continuing to be beats.

Source piece: “Gavotte in A Major” by Daniel Gottlob Turk


Image #3
Image #4

Image #1: The item is in 6/8 time, which method six pulses (think beats) per measure. Therefore far, we only have 1 out of the 6.Image #2: We finish the pickup measure with the 5 continuing to be pulses (beats).

See more: Shmoop Romeo And Juliet Act 1, Scene 3, Romeo And Juliet Act 1, Scene 1

Source piece: “Siciliano” by Robert Schumann


Lastly, let’s take it a look in ~ several instances of anacruses in piece of different levels that complexity and different time signatures.


Pickup actions are quite common and we hope the you now have a better understanding that what they are all about. Remember, constantly begin by looking at your time signature, which tells you how plenty of beats (or pulses, if you space in compound time) a complete measure will have. The way, you will automatically be able come tell which measure is not complete.For much more useful short articles on music theory, watch the argued topics below:

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