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Why bars?

Marion 08 May 00 - 11:42 AM
Mbo 08 May 00 - 11:44 AM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 12:00 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 12:05 PM
sophocleese 08 May 00 - 12:13 PM
sophocleese 08 May 00 - 12:19 PM
Mark Clark 08 May 00 - 12:22 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 12:48 PM
Mooh 08 May 00 - 12:58 PM
Whistle Stop 08 May 00 - 01:02 PM
Grab 08 May 00 - 01:05 PM
JPRameau 08 May 00 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,Barry T 08 May 00 - 01:33 PM
Doctor John 08 May 00 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,JZG 08 May 00 - 02:27 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,JZG 08 May 00 - 03:01 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 03:07 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 03:09 PM
catspaw49 08 May 00 - 03:14 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 03:14 PM
MMario 08 May 00 - 03:15 PM
black walnut 08 May 00 - 04:03 PM
wysiwyg 08 May 00 - 04:08 PM
Racer 08 May 00 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Bartholomew 08 May 00 - 06:19 PM
Bradypus 08 May 00 - 06:30 PM
wysiwyg 08 May 00 - 06:39 PM
Willie-O 08 May 00 - 07:53 PM
John in Brisbane 08 May 00 - 09:22 PM
Crowhugger 09 May 00 - 02:59 AM
Whistle Stop 09 May 00 - 08:19 AM
Easy Rider 09 May 00 - 10:34 AM
Jon Freeman 09 May 00 - 10:59 AM
Easy Rider 09 May 00 - 01:50 PM
Grab 10 May 00 - 08:03 AM
Jim the Bart 10 May 00 - 01:41 PM
Mark Cohen 11 May 00 - 12:11 AM
Racer 11 May 00 - 03:02 AM
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Subject: Why bars?
From: Marion
Date: 08 May 00 - 11:42 AM

I am inspired by the person bold enough to ask if we really need different keys.

My question is: why do we need to divide written music up into bars?

What purpose do the bar divisions serve to a person reading music in order to know what to play? Would playing be any different if there were no time signatures and the notes of various lengths were just written one after another?

I know that guitar chord changes tend to coincide with new bars, and I know that drumbeats and toe taps fall into a pattern of hitting the same beats in each bar. But I would suggest that that happens naturally in response to the melody and doesn't need to be written down. If a group of non-musicians clap along to a song in 4/4, some will clap beats 1 and 3, and some will clap beats 2 and 4, but nobody will clap every third beat. The rhythm is inherent in the melody, and nobody needs to be told it's in 4/4.

I started to think about this when I found sheet music to Danny Boy on the internet. The person offering it had the note corresponding to "Oh" as the first beat in a bar, rather than having "Oh Danny" as a pick-up and "boy" as a first beat. I knew this was wrong because the chord changes didn't match up with the bar changes, but I realized that it didn't affect my ability to find out what notes to play or how long to play them - which is the point of writing music, isn't it?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Mbo
Date: 08 May 00 - 11:44 AM

Oh no! Without bar lines we'd have plainsong!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:00 PM

The notes (or rests) that come right after a bar line have the strongest beat. We call it 'ONE'. So whether you're playing a tune that feels like 'ONE, two, three, four', or 'ONE, two, three', you'll always know when that strong beat is coming around.

Bar lines also help your eyes to find your spot on the page, or to help a group stay together, because you can say, 'STOP! Everybody let's go back to bar number 3,692!'

Hope that helps,

~black walnut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:05 PM

P.S. It sounds to me like the sheet music for Danny Boy may need some correction....

And, yes, "my ability to find out what notes to play or how long to play them" is the point of writing down the music, but if one doesn't know the song to begin with, bar lines give a lot of information that can't be known in any other way.

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: sophocleese
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:13 PM

Bar lines and time signatures are very helpful when you do not know how the music you are looking at sounds. A string of eighth notes can be played in a number of different ways with the accent falling on different ones; ONE two three, Two two three, ONE two three, Two two three or One and two and three and four and ONE and two and three and four and.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: sophocleese
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:19 PM

black walnut looks like you were posting while I was thinking, eating and reading.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:22 PM

Why bars, you ask? Without bars, how would we find our audience? Bars make public performances possible.

      - Mark

(well, somebody had to do it)


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:48 PM

sophocleese, all together now....!!!

mark, why is it that when you're really thirsty, there are bar lines?

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Mooh
Date: 08 May 00 - 12:58 PM

Mark, I hate standing in line at a bar. Or was that a line to the bar? There could be a song in this. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 08 May 00 - 01:02 PM

I've heard all the bar lines, and tried a few myself.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Grab
Date: 08 May 00 - 01:05 PM

Where else would we hang around in women's clothing? :-)

The rhythm _is_ inherrent in the melody, but that's only cos the players know the time signature. There might not be a need for bars if we had the time signature plus an 'accent' (or something) to mark where the first ONE beat comes. But 10 pages through the score, suppose you lose track of where the accent comes? Boy, you's in a world of hurt now...

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: JPRameau
Date: 08 May 00 - 01:20 PM

Before I get in too deep, let me say that although I had piano lessons while growing up, I don't understand music theory at all, and I don't want to understand it.

The answer to your question isn't a theory question though, Marion it is a practical one. The bar lines just break down the music into phrases that are easier to practice and to play

There are some more modern composers who don't use bar lines. Erik Satie, for some reason, didn't bother with them in a number of pieces, and you have to pencil them in yourself, unless you want to go crazy.

I was laughing out loud when you said that drumbeats happen naturally, in response to the melody and didn't need to be written down! I have played as an accompanist with middle and high school musical esnsembles, and if you let those percussionists play what came to them naturally, you would regret it, and soon!


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: GUEST,Barry T
Date: 08 May 00 - 01:33 PM

Think of the parallel with poetry. It would be possible, I suppose, to read a poem and get the metre (rhythm)correct if it were a long tickertape. But look how much easier it is when written in stanzas and separated into lines.

Ditto for music notation which, after all, is simply a method of shorthand to enable the music reader to reproduce the sound the writer intended... quickly and easily. Like poetry, music breaks into recognizeable note patterns and repeated parts. Notation facilitates the recognition of those... as well as the memorizing of melodies, as required by some instruments and performances.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Doctor John
Date: 08 May 00 - 02:07 PM

Thanks Marion for starting this one which was going to be my next question! This kind of stuff seems to be self evident to the musically gifted but to those like me who'd like to be and aren't, it's a great puzzle. I've sked many people including my music student daughter: Q: Why is it ONE two three four or ONE two three? A: Well, you emphasize the first beat in the bar. Q. Do you mean you make it louder? A: No Q: Do you mean you make it longer? A. No Q: What do you do then? A: You emphasize it, of course! I normally then retire to a bar and sing "There's A Hole in the Bucket". Oddly 3/4 time is fairly rare in folk music (am I right) but seems to be very relaxing. Anyone know the psychology of this?


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: GUEST,JZG
Date: 08 May 00 - 02:27 PM

Composers also didn't start using barlines (for the most part) until sometime in the 17th century. But they did use time signatures -- in other words, they'd tell you what the meter was, but you had to figure out for yourself where you were within that meter. And sometimes that earlier music comes out better if you read it from a copy without the bar lines, too ... but yeah, it's a real problem if you get lost or lose count halfway through.

JZG


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 02:48 PM

there are quite a few 3/4s in folk music....any waltz, for example. where would we be without those wondrous fiddle waltzes?

i've been learning how to do 3/4 accompaniments on the harp....more difficult than the 4/4 (common) meter.

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: GUEST,JZG
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:01 PM

Doctor John: You might be able to answer one of your own questions, anyway. Next time you're out in a bar singing "There's a hole in the bucket" (which is in 3/4, by the way) clap along with yourself, or stamp your foot. Or clap or stamp along with a song someone else is singing. Then ask yourself "How did I know when to clap? What was I hearing that told me where the claps should go?"

If you can answer that question (and you probably won't always hear the same things), that's what your daughter means by "emphasizing" the beat ... it's hard to get a straight answer because it's a lot harder to describe than it is to do it or hear it.

JZG


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:07 PM

I've been thinking about Doctor John's question/comment about 3/4 being relaxing. I don't know for sure, but I wonder if it has to do with how it breaks us away from the walking/running pattern our feet do. You'll always start the next strong beat on the opposite foot. We walk/run/march more naturally in 2/4 or 4/4 time.

Moving your feet in 3/4 time takes you back and forth in a rocking motion quite nicely. Anything that takes us away from actually getting somewhere is quite relaxing......

~black walnut (1,2,3 1,2,3...zzzzzzzzzzzz)


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:09 PM

sorry! i meant to say "moving your feet in 3/4 time takes you SIDE TO SIDE in a rocking motion.

there, that feels better.

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:14 PM

The "bar line" is the division line and the space in between is properly called a "measure." We've been using the slang and interchanging them for a long time, but the proper term, as when you teach a child music, is "measure," as in measurement. Technically a bar has no beats, all the beats are within the bar lines, ie, the measure. Only intro pick-up notes are not within a measure and that is called a partial measure.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:14 PM

....and maybe some day I'll even get the punctuation right!"

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: MMario
Date: 08 May 00 - 03:15 PM

The only way I know how to clap to a song is by watching someone else....'struth....


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: black walnut
Date: 08 May 00 - 04:03 PM

2 hands together, any order, M!

~'nut


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 May 00 - 04:08 PM

It's to keep the bad mean nasty dangerous notes away from the good ones.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Racer
Date: 08 May 00 - 04:29 PM

When playing a song that is all eighth notes, how would one differentiate between 4/4 and 6/8 without measures?

As for emphasis: I usually do play a note a little louder and slightly earlier to emphasize it.

-Racer


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: GUEST,Bartholomew
Date: 08 May 00 - 06:19 PM

Let me see if I have this straight - The bar line helps you to measure a song, so you know how long it is. Oh heck, I should have taken more notes. . .


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Bradypus
Date: 08 May 00 - 06:30 PM

Marion said 'what notes to play or how long to play them - which is the point of writing music, isn't it? '

Yes, it's what notes to play, and how long to play them, and what emphasis to give them, and how smoothly to play them, and how loud, and what speed, and when to repeat and ...

With folk music, with well defined melody and simple rhythms (in general) it's fairly easy. The same way of writing music has to transmit much more complex ideas in other contexts, where the stress patterns are not so inherent in the melody.

People can clap in time to music because the musicians are giving the rhythm, and those cues can be readily picked up.

An interesting exercise - take 'Danny Boy', and re-write it as you suggested, with the 'Oh' on the fist beat. Play what you've written, with the stress pattern as we've discussed (strong on the furst beat of each bar). It's a different tune, although all the notes and note lengths are the same.

If you were a composer, and this new tune is what you actually want people to play, how would you let them know without using bar lines, or some equivalent way of indicating the stress pattern in the music? Yes, you could do it with stress marks all the way through, but that's not much different from using bar lines.

Bradypus

Bradypus


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 May 00 - 06:39 PM

And if you let them all out of their cells at once, there would probably be a riot.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Willie-O
Date: 08 May 00 - 07:53 PM

Marion, the trouble with people clapping along is that all they know how to do in this part of the world is 4/4 or 2/4--nobody claps to a waltz, and a lot of people, even many that are into that so-called "drumming" thing are TOTALLY flummoxed if you try jig time (6/8) on them. (And time signatures are not much use without bars.)

ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six really, really throws them, but they're "drummers", they think, so they must beat out that rhythm, though they don't know what it is. Believe me, I've seen it happen enough times. When it happens while I'm playing, I just want to go "shut up out there, you're messing the whole thing up".

Sorry, elitist snob that I am, I don't want to do a rhythm workshop every time I crank out a jig. Besides I don't have a free hand to conduct with.

I thought this was one of Fieldings sticky little thread traps. I agree with the point he would be making if it was--barre chords are overrated and there's lots better ways to play non-key-of-G things.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:22 PM

And don't forget that the music notation is just a guide for the musician. The interpretation of 3/4 time will vary considrably with different cultures. Try playing along with an old fashioned drum machine that can only play Bomm-chick-chick while you sing The Mountains Of Mourne, and you'll quickly realise that the trinity of quarter notes in every bar of 3/4 time were not created equal. Play them with equal duration and prominence and you'll get a boring rendition. The structure of music notation is a handy contrivance to teach and learn music. The exact delivery will depend upon the culture, skill and sensitivity of the players.

Regards, John


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 May 00 - 02:59 AM

JiB makes an important point about bar lines being for the music reader. Until relatively recently, music was an oral and auditory tradition. The history of written music is very recent; in the 17th century the notation still varied from kingdom to queendom to empire. Variations probably remain where computer typesetting is not affordable.

If you can't read this, the commas, periods and new paragraphs won't mean much. As for interpreting bar lines, each of us speaks a given sentence with our own rhythm. Sharing something with others is made far easier if there is an agreed upon rhythm.

My two cents for the kitty.

CH.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 09 May 00 - 08:19 AM

The emphasis on a beat (the "one," perhaps) in music is analogous to the emphasis on a syllable in speech. In a word with more than one syllable, we typically will emphasize one syllable more than the others (in the English language, anyway). Sometimes that means it's louder than the others, sometimes it's just more prominent somehow. Check any dictionary, and you'll see that the pronunciation key indicates which syllable in the word gets the primary emphasis (sometimes in a long word you'll have a secondary emphasis also; this happens in music as well). As my Dad used to say, this is so you don't put the emPHASis on the wrong sylLABle.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Easy Rider
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:34 AM

Without bars, we couldn't count. Can you imagine counting a twelve bar 4/4 blues 1, 2, 3,...,48? Isn't 1,2,3,4 | 1,2,3,4 | Etc. much better?

What about 11/16 time? 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2 | 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2 is a lot easier than 1,2,3,...,11, and it tells you where to place the accents. Try it.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:59 AM

On the 6/8 time bit, it amazes me how many guitar players I know who simply can not do it. At a rough guess in the folk clubs round here, I would say that those that can't out number those that can't out number those that can by about 3:1. The situation gets worse if you try to include those who play rock rather than folk.

I must admit that I dont count 123 456 but use 123 123 (Sligthly more emphasis on the first 1). It seems to work for me.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Easy Rider
Date: 09 May 00 - 01:50 PM

If we didn't have bars: We wouldn't have bar stools.

If we didn't have bar stools: What would the drunks fall off of?


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Grab
Date: 10 May 00 - 08:03 AM

Re Dr John, 3/4 time is relatively rare bcos it's not a 'natural' dance rhythm. You've got 2 legs, hence a natural rhythm is something that involves both legs moving in sequence. 3/4 dances such as the waltz require that everyone learns how to do it, it's not something that comes naturally. But there is something 'natural' about groups of 3 notes, hence 3/4 time sounds nice, and hence the reason why lots of music uses 4/4 time with groups of triplets - blues is almost exclusively triplets.

The first note is actually played slightly louder - that's the emphasis, in the same way as you sing "hole" slightly louder in "There's a hole in my bucket". You may not notice that you're doing it, you'll just notice that there's emphasis on that syllable.

And re John in Brisbane, there's an apocryphal story about Charlie Watts which I like. Someone showed him a drum machine, and said "This machine can keep time more accurately than any human being." Charlie thought about this for a little while, then said "Nah, don't believe it".

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 10 May 00 - 01:41 PM

Easy Rider -

Drunks would have to fall off the wagon all over again.


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 11 May 00 - 12:11 AM

Yes, measures and meter matter. When I was in the All-Philadelphia High School Concert Band in 1969, we were playing a Vaughn Williams piece, I believe it was called English Folk Song Suite. One of the tunes was The Irish Washerwoman, which is a jig. For some reason the conductor, usually an excellent musician, misread the time signature and insisted on conducting it in 3/4 instead of 6/8. (For those still a little fuzzy on all this, that means he was conducting three beats in a measure instead of two: "1-and 2-and 3-and" instead of "1-and-a 2-and-a") He was having the devil of a time trying to get us to play all those syncopated notes! He actually got so angry he broke the chalk on the board while screaming, "DUM, DA-dum, da-DUM, DA-da-da-da!"

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Why bars?
From: Racer
Date: 11 May 00 - 03:02 AM

Many people misread 6/8 as a triple time signature. Mark, you're story is the best one Ive heard. It's a triple time signature with a duple feel. As a guitar player, I try to look at it like Dum pa Ta Dum pa Ta.

--Racer


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