Eli5 what a “bar” means in music?


I was notified of a local theater production hosting a staged reading and I wanted to audition. The auditions aren’t for another few weeks, but as part of the audition, I need to sing 32 bars of a modern musical song and then give a conflicting one minute monologue. I can handle the monologue, but what the hell is a bar?

In: 5

In music, there is a time signature, which is the two numbers, one over another. This indicates the number of notes in a “set”. These sets are sort of like sentences in writing, and are called ‘bars’. They are usually indicated by a vertical line. “32 bars” in this case means the amount of a song you are asked to sing, based on the sheet music for that song.

Break a leg!

A “bar” is a unit of length in music. The time signature (something like 4/4 or 6/8) tells you how long it is. For example, music in 4/4 time has 4 (top number) quarter notes (bottom number) per bar. Music in 6/8 time has 6 (top number) eighth notes (bottom number) per bar.

If you look at the sheet music, you’ll see each bar marked off by vertical lines separating it from the bars on either side. [Here’s an image](https://i.imgur.com/0yJKPRO.png). This music is in 3/4 time, so each bar lasts 3 quarter notes. In the melody (the three notes at the top of the bar), these are actually 3 quarter notes; in the bass (the single note at the bottom), it’s a dotted half note (which is a half note + half a half note = a half note plus a quarter note = 3 quarter notes in length). This image contains 16 total bars of music.

Ok, I’m an actual musician (unlike the two before me…..) a bar is a measure. It’s called that because of the literal bar that denotes the measures. A 32 bar solo is a pretty decent length, but also not crazy. Probably 1 minute at most, but that really depends on he tempo.

A bar (formally: a *measure*) is a time unit consisting of a number of beats. So, if a song is in “common time” (4/4), a bar has four beats each lasting a quarter note. Most popular music in the Western world is in common time. I suggest you watch a few music theory videos to get up to speed on this kind of jargon as it is so common. Bars and measures tend to be explained quite early.

Good luck with the audition.

it depends on the timing. if you have access to the sheet music, the time is indicated at the beginning of the staff (The staff is the 5 horizontal lines that go across the page). It’s represented as a numeric fraction just after the clef.

Since music on the broad scale is rhythmic, you can usually just listen and count the beats. Pick a specific instrument sound that’s repetitive, a good choice is the bass drum. Count to 4 in time with the beat, chances are, you’ll start to notice the other instruments are repeating to the same count.

Most contemporary music is in 4/4 time. For these, a bar or measure is 4 beats.

32 bars of music in 4/4 time will be 128 beats.