What Is A Bar In Music?

We’re guessing that if you have an interest in music, then you’ve probably heard the word “bar” being used to describe a piece of it.

Yes, it’s true, against popular opinion, not all bars are where your drinks are ordered from. Bars can also be in music. Sweet, sweet music. 

what is a bar in music

Maybe you’ve just picked up your first guitar and you’re on the quest to become the next Jimi Hendrix.

Or, you’ve been thinking about taking piano lessons but want to sharpen up your music knowledge before heading to the first lesson.

Whatever your reasons may be, you’re intrigued by what a bar is in music, and lucky for you, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we will showcase what a musical bar is, as well as the different types of bars, and how they can be used and you will get your anwser about what is a bar in music.

This way you’ll have a basic understanding of how music is constructed and read, so you’ll be shredding your acoustic in no time (that’s the idea anyway). 

So What Exactly Is A Bar In Music Then?

When a composer writes a piece of music, it is common practice that they subdivide it into easily digested pieces that make a playing musician’s job easier.

The smallest subdivision of a written piece of music is known as a musical bar, and/ or measure. 

A bar is a section of music that has a specific purpose. It usually lasts anywhere between one and three beats long, and it’s often used to transition from one part of the song to another.

So, what exactly does a bar consist of? Well, there are two main parts of a bar: The beat and the melody.

A Beat

This is the most important part of a bar because it tells us when the music should start and stop. If a song doesn’t have any beats, or only has a few, chances are it won’t sound very good.

In fact, it might even make people wonder why it was recorded at all! But, don’t worry, we’ll get into more detail later on. For now, let’s focus on the beat.

A Melody

This is the actual note pattern that makes up the music. Think of it as a recipe; without the ingredients, there would be nothing to eat.

Without the notes, there would be no music. Now, some songs use a lot of melodies, while others stick with just one. 

However, it’s always best to keep things simple and stick to just one melody throughout the entire song.

That way, you’ll avoid getting too carried away and ending up with something that sounds like a cacophony of noise. 

What Are The Different Types Of Bar Lines?

On a sheet of music, there are four types of bar lines that each indicate a different thing.

By learning the different types of bar lines, you’ll be able to make quick sense of how a specific sheet of music has been structured, and begin to practice and play it. So what are the four types of bar lines you ask?

Single Bar Line 

Measures are marked by a single-line bar. There’s no need to stop or pause here; just play again after the measure ends. Only the last beat on the bar may be seen.

Double Bar Line

Double Bar Line

A double bar line is identical except for one thing — it marks the end of a song’s section, while a single bar line marks the end of a section.

So you just have to play beyond the double bar line to get to the next part of the song. Double bar lines are used by composers to mark the end of sections.

End Bar Line 

As you probably could have guessed, when you see the end bar line, you’ve reached the end of the song, and you should give yourself a figurative pat on the back for making it through a piece of music that hopefully sounded something like it should have. 

Repeat Symbol

A repeat symbol is indicated by dots on either side of the letter or number. The repeat symbol has two dots pointing to the right and left.

This indicates that anything inside the dots must be repeated. If you don’t have a beginning repeat dot, then you go back to the beginning of the song and start over.

How To Count Bars In Music?

Once you learn how to count bars in a song, you will find that reading and playing music will become much easier.

And do you know the best part about this? You don’t have to be a musical genius to understand it, so let’s dive in. 

A bar is made up of four beats or four rhythms of music (this much we already know). So, to count bars, it’s a straightforward matter of counting 1, 2,3, 4.

For example, a simple pattern of “kick, clap, kick, clap” is going to be a bar, and every time the pattern is repeated, that would be classed as another bar.

If you hear the clap hit twice in the song’s natural rhythm and drum sequence at the beginning of each measure, that would be one measure.

But, remember, counting the 4 beats of measurements is the key. Usually, a kick is hitting on beats 1 and 3 and the snare or cymbal is hitting on beats 2 and 4, but there can be some variations.

Of course, the speed at which the song plays is going to affect how long a bar seems, but it’ll always be the four rhythmic beats in succession—that is, the quarter note followed by the eighth note followed by the sixteenth note followed by the thirty-second note—that make up a bar.

The tempo of the music speeds up the succession, even though it is still always four beats.

For example, an electronic song with 110 BPM (beats per minute) is going to sound faster than a rap song with only 75 BPM, even though they have the same number of bars.

What Is A Time Signature In Music?

One absolute truth about music is that it must move through time, it is not a static thing. This is why many musicians look at music as sound organized through the structure of time.

This time management of music is what is commonly referred to as a time signature.

The time signatures provide us with a way to notate music so that we can read it from scores, listen to its organization patterns, and talk about it with a common terminology understood by other musicians.

The organizational pattern of beats, as indicated in the time signature, is the way we hear and/or sense the meter of the music. Time signatures and meters refer to different things.

A time signature refers to the number and type of notes in each measure, while a meter refers to how those measures are grouped together in the musical composition.

Simple, compound, and complex and the three different types of time signatures. Simple: The most commonly used types of simple time signatures include 2/4, 3 /4, 4/4, and 2/2.

Sometimes the letter C is used in place of 4/4. Both C and 4⁄4 indicate that there are four quarter notes per measure.


How Many Beats Are in Musical Bar?

These can vary between songs. Some songs have 2 or three, while others have up to 4 beats. However, the common practice is about 4 bars in a song. Picture this; have you ever heard musicians counting 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 before they start strumming their guitars? 

The answer to that is probably yes. That’s because they are not just counting the numbers 1 – 4 out of nowhere. They are usually counting the beats in the song’s musical bar. 


As you can see, once you break down a sheet of music to understand it, it really isn’t as difficult to read as you think.

By learning the basics of sheet music through the different types of bars, how to count them, and time signatures, you are now officially ready to pick up that instrument and start shredding.

Of course, some talent brought on by lessons may help, but at least you’ll know what the teacher is talking about now. 

If you enjoyed this article on what is a bar in music, you might enjoy our post on ‘Open D Tuning [3 Easy Steps & Chords!]‘.