8 Bar Loops: All You Need to Know About Them

8 Bar Loops: All You Need to Know About Them 8 Bar Loops: All You Need to Know About Them

If you've spent any time making your own music or playing an instrument, you've likely come across this concept revolving around an 8-bar loop. In today's music landscape, more tracks than not are centered around this structure, so understanding 8 bar loops can certainly unlock some cheat codes for artists.

Fortunately, we'll break down the ins and outs of 8 bar loops below so that you can use this building block in your own performance, music production, and improvisation practices. We'll also share ways in which you can break past the commonplace 8-bar structure if you're hoping to create something a little more unique.

Understanding a Bar

A bar in music is otherwise known as a measure. The length of a bar will vary based on the time signature of a piece, but in common time or 4/4, most bars contain 4 beats. Knowing how to identify bars in music can help you communicate effectively with other musicians and better understand overarching song structure.

What is an 8-Bar Loop?

As the name suggests, an 8-bar loop is a section of music that runs 8 measures long. It is sometimes looped for reasons described below. It's also a common trope that music producers will create the basis of a song by creating an 8-bar loop. 8-bar loops can be duplicated to create basic song structure, assist in the writing process, or serve as an excellent improvisation tool.

How Do I Create an 8-bar Loop?

Creating an 8-bar loop is simply a matter of counting. You'll need 8 bars or measures that can serve as the blueprint for the rest of your song. In these 8-bars, you'll likely have a basic drum pattern, chord progression, bassline, and melody to go off. Start by filling in the blanks for one of these sonic elements and then the rest will intuitively follow with some effort and patience. Once you have your 8-bars, you can duplicate it multiple times to create a skeleton of your song structure or use your DAW's loop function for improvisation or riffing.

When Should I Use An 8-Bar Loop?

An 8-bar loop can be an excellent tool in many subsets of music making. Here are a couple of ways in which you might use 8-bar loops in music:


In the world of improvisation, it's common for band members, players, and singers to riff in groups of four. Understanding the structure of an 8-bar loop can help you effectively collaborate in jam settings or while performing live.


A basic 8-bar loop can serve as the foundation for writing your next song. Instead of feeling like you have to write a whole song outright, loop an 8-bar section and start writing to what you've created. Breaking your writing process down into smaller chunks may be more approachable for some musicians.

Transitioning From One Track to the Next

8-bar loops are commonly placed at the beginning and end of tracks to help DJs make smooth transitions in their mixes. This way, you can ease one song into another without jarring contrast taking the listener out of the experience of the music.

Practice Tool

Creating a quick 8-bar composition and looping it is a great way to get some solid practice reps in. Set your chord progression, add a basic beat, and then riff over your loop to brainstorm new ideas and practice your instrument.

5 Ways to Break Out of the 8-Bar Loop

The 8-bar loop can be a helpful tool, but nevertheless, it can be stifling if relied on too heavily. If you find yourself getting stuck, here are a couple of strategies that will help you create variations in the sound design of your music:

Write a Song In Full Before Producing It

It's not uncommon to create a drum loop or the main loop of your song, and then rely on that loop for whole arrangement of your song. While you can finish tracks this way, great music supports variations over the course of a song that keep the listener engaged - in other words, repetitive music without loop variations can get pretty boring.

If you find yourself falling on this crutch, challenge yourself to write an entire song before heading to your DAW. This will force you to build contrasting melodies that will make it easier to create cohesive sections from one section to the next.

You can also experiment with writing music step by step, honing on one element through the full duration of a song before adding in the other elements of a full arrangement. Find a way to switch up your usual songwriting methods, and you might find it easier to finish tracks with more variation.

Change Instrumentation, Not the Structure

If you've duplicated out your 8-bar loop across the course of a song and you can't seem to figure out what to add or take away, consider changing the instrumentation instead. You can keep the same parts, i.e. the melodies, chord progressions, drums, and basslines, but try experimenting with different sounds or instruments for each as you move from one section to the next. Sometimes, an instrument refresh is all you need to give your track enough variety.

Focus On Switching Up Every 4 Bars

Instead of worrying about the flow across your entire composition, start small and focus on switching up some sonic element every 4 bars. This could be adding in a drum fill, a new instrument, or introducing new rhythmic elements. Sometimes, a quick switch here and there can inspire the changes you need to create a fuller composition.

Subtractive Arrangement

If you find that you have no trouble adding layers to your composition, but struggle to add variations across the full track, try experimenting with subtractive arrangement. Instead of adding a new element whenever you move into a new section, experiment with taking something away: that could be a topline melody (common to remove during the verses), the drums (perhaps in a pre-chorus to make the drop more impactful, or even a bass line (maybe for a sparse bridge). Sometimes, less is more when it comes to effective arrangement.

Reference the Shifts In Your Favorite Songs

Even the best and brightest musicians use a reference track to guide the direction of their music. You can learn a lot of foundational music theory simply by analyzing how your favorite artists move from one section to another over the course of a song.

Even if a song seems to be based around the same short loops repeating over and over, you can probably identify a shift in rhythm, melody, or chord progression as a track moves from verse to chorus for example. Use the bridge between these different sections as the blueprint for your own song.

8-Bar Loop FAQs

Use these commonly asked questions and answers to help you know when you should (and shouldn't) use an 8 bar loop in your compositions:

How do you make an 8-bar loop into a song?

You can use an 8 bar loop as the starting point of any song, as many other producers and musicians do. Duplicate your 8 bar loop across the course of your song, then add or subtract or add elements to the arrangement, taking care to switch up the arrangement from one 8-bar section to the next.

What is the 8-bar rule?

The idea of the 8 bar rule is that the full track of most compositions can be broken down into 8 bar sections. Whether you're working in pop or electronic music, you'll find that the chord progression or underlying flow of a song tends to shift after 8 bars.

What is an 8-bar?

"An 8 bar" refers to 8 bars, or measures, usually within the context of a song. Common western song structure and music production can be broken down into 8 bar sections, across genres.

How do you break out of an 8-bar loop?

We provide several strategies to help you break out of the monotony of an 8 bar loop above, but there are several ways to ensure that your entire track doesn't sound exactly the same. Take care to add or subtract new elements when moving from one 8 bar section to another.

The 8-bar loop can be a powerful tool for any musician, but it shouldn't be relied on too heavily throughout the songwriting process. Have fun using this vital songwriting building block to make amazing compositions.

Bring your songs to life with professional quality mastering, in seconds!