Is a bar and measure the same? Frequently Asked Questions

It is easy to see why this question is so important amongst musicians and singers, as well as dancers. It is especially important if you are just learning how to read music, because knowing what a bar and a measure are allows you to keep time, and read music so you can sing, play or dance to it. However, when most people hear the answer to the question, they feel a little bit cheated, or at least confused.

A bar is a measure of a series of notes. Most bars in the Western world are four beats long. Some music has bars in it that last for longer, but that particular standard is usually followed, especially with music that is popular or is meant to be non-experimental.

At the same time, a measure is a series of notes. Both a measure and a bar are denoted on a piece of sheet music by a vertical line. Once that vertical line is hit in the playing of the music, the bar or measure starts again.

Easy to feel confused

You can probably see why people feel confused when they realise that bars and measures are pretty much the same thing. In fact, they are the same thing, but are just used according to the teaching that the musician has received in the past. In other words, some musicians will refer to bars and some will refer to measures.

As always, the best way to understand this is to look at a piece of sheet music. Time signatures will be there, which denote how many beats are in a bar or a measure.