Writing Bar Lines – Different Functions

Writing Bar Lines Is There a Difference

Writing Bar Lines is simple once you understand their function.

Learn What, Where & How? Watch the Video Below.

Bar Lines are vertical lines in our music that have specific functions based upon how many of them are used and their “size” (thickness).

When writing bar lines, there are:

  • thin bar lines,
  • thick bar lines,
  • thick and thin bar lines
  • bar lines with dots

Depending on where you are in the world, bar lines may also be referred to by different terms (or names). There are rules for Writing Bar Lines too!

What is a Bar Line?  Are you ready to be confused?  Here goes:

Bar Lines What Where How

Before Writing Bar Lines, let us understand what they are.

  • A “Bar Line” can also be called a “Bar”.
  • A Measure (the area between 2 bar lines) can also be called a Bar (the term “Bar” is the old English term for “Measure”).
  • The term “Barline” (or “Barlines”) can also be used for the term “Bar Line” (or “Bar Lines”).

In the Ultimate Music Theory Workbooks, we have chosen to refer to the line (or lines) that separate music into equal measures of time as “Bar Line” (or “Bar Lines”).

We have chosen to refer to the area between the Bar Lines as a “Measure”.  This avoids confusion.  Students understand that the "bar line" is the line and the "measure" is the area between the bar lines.

Would you rather ask your student to “Add Bars to create equal Bars” or "Add Bar Lines to create equal Measures"?

Writing Bar Lines – Where Do You Use Them?

Bar Lines At the End

Bar Lines are taught in the Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook on Page 32 and in the Basic Rudiments Workbook on Page 13.

When writing Bar Lines, there are (typically) 3 common types of Bar Lines (not including Repeat Signs, which we will look at in another Blog).

A “single” (thin) Bar Line is used at the end of a measure.  Single Bar Lines divide music into equal measures of time.

A “double” (2 thin) Bar Line is used at the end of a section of music (which is not necessarily the end of the music).  It is also used before a Time Signature change or before a Key Signature change in the music.  Around the world, this type of Bar Line is known as a “Double Bar Line”, a “Double Bar” and even an “Interior Double Bar Line”.

A “double” (1 thin + 1 thick) Bar Line is used at the end of the music (or at the very end of a particular movement within a multi-movement piece).  This type of Bar Line is known as a “Double Bar Line”, a “Final Bar Line”, a “Final Double Bar Line”, a “Period Double Bar Line” and also a “Terminal Double Bar Line”.

Writing Bar Lines – How Do You Write Them?

On a single staff, Bar Lines are never written “outside” the staff.  Bar Lines are written from the top of the staff (line 5) to the bottom of the staff (line 1).  Even if the staff uses Ledger Line Notes, the Bar Line does not extend outside the single staff.

On a Grand Staff, Bar Lines are never written “outside” the staff.  The area between the Treble and Bass Staves is part of the Grand Staff and is not considered “outside” the staff.

On a Grand Staff, Bar Lines are written from the top of the Treble Staff (line 5) to the bottom of the Bass Staff (line 1).

Writing Bar Lines on a Grand Staff

The common exception is in Modern Vocal Score.  (You can read about Bar Lines in my Blog Modern Vocal Score Bar Lines.)

This type of Score is taught in the Ultimate Music Theory Advanced Rudiments Workbook in Lesson 10.

It is also a requirement of the Level 8 Theory Exam.  Students will prepare for this exam by completing both the Ultimate Music Theory Advanced Rudiments Workbook and the LEVEL 8 Supplemental Workbook.

Write Bar Lines Double Final

I have found that an easy way to draw the Final Double (thin and thick) Bar line is to draw 3 thin bar lines (close together, but not TOO close!) and then fill in the space between the 2nd and the 3rd bar lines.

In this picture, you can see that Patrick did a great job of practicing how to draw the Final Double Bar line on his UMT Student Whiteboard!

When writing bar lines in his Ultimate Music Theory Workbook Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook, Patrick uses his UMT Ruler to make the lines super straight!

Ti-Do Tip:  All students should have their very own UMT Ruler.  They clip inside the Workbook, so students don't lose it.  They are great book marks too!

They also make great Recital or Achievement Gifts for your students!

Writing Bar Lines - Pop Quiz

That's Right!  It's Pop Quiz Time for Writing Bar Lines!

Here are 4 examples of Bar Lines.  I have used my computer pencil and mouse to draw these.

Can you identify whether each Bar Line Example is Correct or Incorrect?

Writing Bar Lines Pop Quiz

Here are the Answers:

a)  It doesn’t take a magnifying glass to see that the bar line has been written starting significantly above the staff and ending significantly below the staff.

b)  While there is no rule about the exact number of millimeters, centimeters or parts of an inch apart that the 2 bar lines (in a Double Bar Line) must be, these 2 bar lines are significantly too far apart to be a Double Bar Line (end of the section).

c)  An examiner is not going to take out a geometry set to ensure that the bar line is at a perfect 90 degree angle, it is important for students to try to be as vertical (straight up and down) as possible.  This bar line is significantly angled.

d)  In a Final Double Bar Line, the thin bar line is written before the thick bar line (and not after it).

Make Writing Bar Lines Easy!

Want to make writing Bar Lines easy for your students?  Give them their very own UMT Ruler.  These hard plastic rulers are clear (see through) so that students can see where they are writing the bar lines.  And they are perfect for left handed and right handed students!

The UMT Ruler clips directly into the coil binding in each Ultimate Music Theory Workbook, making a great book mark as well as always being at hand when the student opens their Workbook.

Writing Bar Lines

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Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


1 thoughts on “Writing Bar Lines – Different Functions”

  • Debby Choit says:

    And it’s always good to review dot placement for repeats before students start level 9 written harmony! Please!!!! Please!!!! Please!!!!

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