Bar (music)


Bar (music)
Types of bar-lines

In musical notation, a bar (or measure) is a segment of time defined by a given number of beats of a given duration. 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 top number of a time signature (such as 3/4).

The word bar is more common in British English, while 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.[1] 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 measure within a piece of music is called ‘bar 1’ or ‘m. 1’. When the piece begins with an upbeat (an incomplete measure at the head of a piece of music), ‘bar 1’ or ‘m. 1’ is the following measure.

Contents

Bar

Originally, the word bar derives 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. In American English, the word bar stands for the lines and nothing else. 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 the term 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.[2]

A repeat sign (or, repeat bar-line[3]) 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 agogic 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.

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 music.

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.

Hypermeasure

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).[5]

See also

Sources

  1. ^ Read, Gardner. (1979) Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice, 2nd ed., New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, p.183.
  2. ^ http://www.dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm − Chart of Musical Symbols
  3. ^ Nickol, Peter (2008). Learning to Read Music, p.105. ISBN 1845282787.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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 0393097676.

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