As a rapper, producer, singer, or musician of any kind, you may find yourself wondering how many bars in a verse makes the most sense in a piece of music. With such a wide variety of song structures in popular music, it can be challenging to know where to turn.
Below, we'll discuss how you can determine how many bars are in a particular song and share a few famous examples of various bar lengths in verses of hit songs. Let's jump into it!
What Is A Verse?
In order to determine how many bars are in a verse, you'll want to have a firm understanding of what a verse is in the first place. Verses are usually the longest part of a song that are primarily centered around the lyrics and main narrative of a piece of music.
Unlike the chorus or bridge, the verse usually plays out on top of a repeated chord progression , with various rhyming lines separated into bars. The verse is one of the most important parts of the song since it tells the story of a piece of composition.
What Is A Bar?
When someone asks, "how many bars" are in a track, what exactly are they referring to? A "bar" technically refers to a measure of music. So one measure is equivalent to a single bar. However, colloquially, some musicians may refer to a single line in pop or hip hop music as a bar. This is because you can easily count bars utilizing a track's rhyme scheme, though it can become challenging to use this method since rhyme doesn't always occur at the end of a line in pop or rap songs.
The number of bars in pop or rap music varies greatly based on a variety of factors discussed below.
How To Count Bars In A Verse
Learning how to count bars in a verse is a great way to notice examples of varying verse lengths. You're also able to actively listen to the flow of bars within a verse so that you can start writing stronger songs .
To start, look to a song's time signature. Counting bars essentially refers to counting measures, and the time signature will tell you how many beats are in an individual bar. For instance, a song in 4/4 will allow four beats per measure, with a quarter note consisting of one full beat. You can count out those beats in order to determine when a bar begins and stops.
Another method is to search for a song's rhyme scheme. Since rhyme in many songs tends to occur in pairs, you might be able to outline a track's bars by identifying the lines that correspond with one another.
This method can steer you the wrong way with certain pieces of music, but many pieces of music can be decoded this way. When in doubt, any modern musical composition is usually 8 bars or 16 bars long, so if you find yourself counting near this point, you might have stumbled across your answer.
How Many Bars Are In A Verse Usually?
While there is no standard number when it comes to verse length, you'll find that most songs nowadays take on an even amount of bars. This is because bars are often structured around a rhyme structure, which usually comes in pairs. Two bars may rhyme with one another, so you'll often see verses broken down into groups like 8 bars, 16 bars, or some number divisible by two.
Traditionally, hip-hop beats take on 16 bars per verse, with each verse followed by choruses or a hook . That being said, there is no one "right" way to write verses . As long as you're keeping the song's overall structure in mind, presumably, any number of bars could work, especially if you're working in the style of hip hop freestyle.
Factors That Affect The Number of Bars In A Verse
So why do some songs have more bars in a verse than others? Here are some of the main factors that add or subtract bars to the verse length.
The rhythm or cadence of particular lines within a verse can certainly determine how many beats and therefore how many verses show up within a song. Rhythm is determined by the time signature of the track, which tells you how many beats belong within a single measure, or bar. A faster rhythm, for instance, will give performers more space for lines once they've started rapping. Hence, hip hop songs at a faster rhythm may not need as many bars since they can contain a lot of lyrics within a condensed number of beats.
An important component that determines how many bars are in a particular verse is the tempo of the track . For instance, an M.C may be able to fit more words into lines within a rap song with a slower tempo. In which case, you might not need a large number of bars to fill out a hip-hop track with a slower tempo. A song played fast might need a greater amount of bars in order to create a completed verse. It's not uncommon for faster tracks to have 16 bars within a verse, for instance.
Song structure affects how many bars you have available in many ways. In its simplest form, shorter songs will have fewer bars available, so you might have to settle for a shorter verse length. You might have fewer bars in your verse if your track has other optional structural song elements like a pre-chorus or bridge.
In rock, pop, and hip hop music, you'll need to make sure that you or the performer can retain your verse or recite it without running out of breath. Determining the lyrical content of your verse and how it's performed, you may have a larger or smaller amount of bars throughout any complete song.
Examples of Songs With Different Amounts of Bars In A Verse
In order to truly understand how many beats a pop or rap song may have, it's a good idea to look to some of your favorite artists. Here are some samples of songs by famous rappers with varying amounts of bars within verses.
8 Bar Verse
8 bar verses can be short and sweet or jam-packed with a fast rhythm or cadence. One example that comes up time and time again is 2Pac's "Changes":
12 Bar Verse
12 bar verses are less common within the rap community, but they can still be found if listeners look closely. You can also find these songs in pop and rock songs, based on the "12 bar blues" format. Just look at "I Feel Good" by James Brown.
16 Bar Verse
16 bars is probably the most common structure found in verses. Hence, there's nothing holding you back from determining how many bars make sense for your verse. 16 bars in a verse may be the most common configuration, but it isn't a set-in-stone rule. Enjoy building your own bars!