Reading Music #32: Bar Lines

This reading music lesson is a supplement to the Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory self-study workbook. While no book is perfect for learning how to read music, this is one of the best available. The concise explanations, brief practice exercises, ear-training CD’s, glossary of music terms, and answer key make it an excellent value. Buy this top-rated self-study course for beginners to advanced musicians and follow along with me.
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Bar lines divide the music staff into equal sections.

These single vertical lines help us to organize the notes and rests in a way that make it easier to read.

bar lines

As you can see, they run straight up and down reaching the top and bottom lines of the staff.

On the grand staff, bar lines pass through the treble and bass clef staves.

grand staff bar lines


I like to compare bar lines to the spaces we find in between words in a book.  If we take those spaces out and cram all the words together, it makes it difficult to read.


If we put those spaces back in, it’s a whole lot easier and faster to read.

Can you read this?


The area between the bar lines is called a measure or bar.

Either term is widely used and accepted around the world.


The staff you see above is divided into 3 measures.

Can you see how these lines make it easier for us to read?

Let’s now take a look at some other types of lines that are also useful in music.

Useful Music Theory Reference Guides

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