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Bar (music)

Types of bar lines

Fifteen bar multirest

In musical notation, a bar (or measure) is
a segment of time corresponding to a
specific number of beats in which each
beat is represented by a particular note
value and the boundaries of the bar are
indicated by vertical bar lines. Dividing
music into bars provides regular reference
points to pinpoint locations within a
musical composition. It also makes
written music easier to follow, since each
bar of staff symbols can be read and
played as a batch.[1] Typically, a piece
consists of several bars of the same
length, and in modern musical notation the
number of beats in each bar is specified at
the beginning of the score by the time
signature. In simple time, (such as 34), the
top figure indicates the number of beats
per bar, while the bottom number indicates
the note value of the beat (the beat has a
quarter note value in the 34 example).

The word bar is more common in British

English, and the word measure is more
common in American English, although
musicians generally understand both
usages. In American English, although the
words bar and measure are often used
interchangeably, the correct use of the
word 'bar' refers only to the vertical line
itself, while the word 'measure' refers to
the beats contained between bars.[2] In
international usage, it is equally correct to
speak of bar numbers and measure
numbers, e.g. ‘bars 9–16’ or ‘mm. 9–16’.
Along the same lines, it is wise to reserve
the abbreviated form ‘bb. 3–4’ etc. for
beats only; bars should be referred to by
name in full.

The first metrically complete bar within a

piece of music is called ‘bar 1’ or ‘m. 1’.
When the piece begins with an anacrusis
(an incomplete bar at the head of a piece
of music), ‘bar 1’ or ‘m. 1’ is the following

Originally, the word bar came from the
vertical lines drawn through the staff to
mark off metrical units and not the bar-like
(i.e., rectangular) dimensions of a typical
measure of music. In British English, these
vertical lines are called bar, too, but often
the term bar line is used in order to make
the distinction clear. A double bar line (or
double bar) can consist of two single bar
lines drawn close together, separating two
sections within a piece, or a bar line
followed by a thicker bar line, indicating
the end of a piece or movement. Note that
double bar refers not to a type of bar (i.e.,
measure), but to a type of bar line. Another
term for the bar line denoting the end of a
piece of music is music end.[3]

A repeat sign (or, repeat bar line[4]) looks

like the music end, but it has two dots, one
above the other, indicating that the section
of music that is before is to be repeated.
The beginning of the repeated passage
can be marked by a begin-repeat sign; if
this is absent the repeat is understood to
be from the beginning of the piece or
movement. This begin-repeat sign, if
appearing at the beginning of a staff, does
not act as a bar line because no bar is
before it; its only function is to indicate the
beginning of the passage to be repeated.
In music with a regular meter, bars
function to indicate a periodic accent in
the music, regardless of its duration. In
music employing mixed meters, bar lines
are instead used to indicate the beginning
of rhythmic note groups, but this is subject
to wide variation: some composers use
dashed bar lines, others (including Hugo
Distler) have placed bar lines at different
places in the different parts to indicate
varied groupings from part to part.

Igor Stravinsky said of bar lines:

The bar line is much, much more

than a mere accent, and I don't
believe that it can be simulated
by an accent, at least not in my

Bars and bar lines also indicate grouping:

rhythmically of beats within and between
bars, within and between phrases, and on
higher levels such as meter.

The earliest barlines, used in keyboard and
vihuela music in the 15th and 16th
centuries, didn't reflect a regular meter at
all but were only section divisions, or in
some cases marked off every beat.
Barlines began to be introduced into
ensemble music in the late 16th century
but continued to be used irregularly for a
time. Not until the mid-17th century were
barlines used in the modern style with
every measure being the same length, and
they began to be associated with time

Modern editions of early music that was

originally notated without barlines
sometimes use a mensurstrich as a

Hypermeter: 4 beat measure, 4 measure
hypermeasure, and 4 hypermeasure verses.
Hyperbeats in red.

A hypermeasure, large-scale or high-level

measure, or measure-group is a metric
unit in which, generally, each regular
measure is one beat (actually hyperbeat)
of a larger meter. Thus a beat is to a
measure as a measure/hyperbeat is to a
hypermeasure. Hypermeasures must be
larger than a notated bar, perceived as a
unit, consist of a pattern of strong and
weak beats, and along with adjacent
hypermeasures, which must be of the
same length, create a sense of
hypermeter. The term was coined by
Edward T. Cone in Musical Form and
Musical Performance (New York: Norton,
1968),[7] and is similar to the less formal
notion of a phrase.

See also
Bar-line shift
Tala (music)
1. ChordWizard Software.
"" . Archived
from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved
11 September 2012.
2. Read, Gardner. (1979) Music Notation: A
Manual of Modern Practice, 2nd ed., New
York: Taplinger Publishing Company, p.183.
3. "Archived copy" . Archived from the
original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved
2007-01-07. − Chart of Musical Symbols
4. Nickol, Peter (2008). Learning to Read
Music, p.105. ISBN 1-84528-278-7.
5. Winold, Allen (1975). "Rhythm in
Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of
Twentieth-Century Music. Wittlich, Gary
(ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice–Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.
6. Harvard Dictionary of Music, Second ed.
(1972), "Barline"
7. Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music:
Essays in Music Analysis, p.18-19 and
"Glossary", p.329. New York: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-517010-5.

Further reading
Cone, Edward T. (1968). Musical Form
and Musical Performance. ISBN 0-393-
Retrieved from

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