Songwriting Tips

How Many Bars is a 3-Minute Song? + 9 Three-Minute Song Videos

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If you’re a songwriter you’ll want to ensure your tracks are the right length. Too long and the listeners get bored, too short and you have no room to build momentum in the song. So what’s the perfect duration?

Three minutes is often believed to be the sweet spot in pop. Most songs have four beats to the bar, but how many bars is a three-minute song? This will depend on its tempo or beats per minute and averages at 80 to 90 bars in a typical three-minute song. 

In this article, we’ll reference examples of tracks of this length, as well as providing you with formulas for calculating your BPM and bars. 

How many bars is a 3-minute song?

It’s said that anything after three minutes can be indulgent – but how many bars is a three-minute song? When it comes to auditions you’ll often be asked to limit your track to three minutes, or possibly two. Beyond this, you risk your audience tiring of it. 

There are of course examples of much longer tracks – electronic bands like Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd have been known to record tunes in excess of twenty minutes hitting the top ten extended play. 

So if most mainstream music runs below or just beyond three minutes, how does that affect the song structure? While most will be of a similar duration, the timing and speed of each will vary wildly and some may speed up or slow down during the song. 

To begin our examples. Here’s a three-minute song written… about writing a three-minute song!

How many bars are there in a minute?

A bar is a measure of time in music. On the stave in written music, it’s represented by an evenly spaced vertical line all the way down the staff separating each small section. Most modern songs have four beats in each of these bars. The number of bars will depend on the speed of the song – or the BPM (beats per minute). The BPM may also be referred to as the tempo of the song

How to Count Bars in a Song

How do you know how many bars are in a song?

A three-minute song would usually be around 80 to 90 bars in total depending on the BPM. Taking into account all types of music, the ‘average’ song has 108 beats per minute. This then equals around 324 beats for three minutes and 81 beats in a song of this length.

So, to work out how many bars there are in a song, you can use the following calculation:

BPM multiplied by minutes in the song divided by four. 

This is based on the assumption that the song will have four beats per minute. 

BPM Calculator

If you need to work out how many beats there are per minute in a song, you can use a BPM calculator or follow this genre guide which provides the average BPM for each type of music. This is especially helpful if you’re writing a song and are unsure what speed it should be. If you want to count your BPM or keep to a specific tempo, you can use a metronome.

How Many Bars In a Song

How to count bars in sheet music

If you have the sheet music you’ll be in a much better position to count the bars, than you will be by listening to the music alone. You can check out the time signature on the left-hand side at the beginning of the staff to confirm the number of beats per bar. Then you can simply count the bars on the manuscript. 

How long is a bar in rap?

This is a little more complex in rap. So here’s a guide for counting lyrical bars that are based on beats. 

It’s especially important to understand bars when you start rapping and writing rap music. Why is this? Well, if you’re collaborating with another artist, they may ask you to come up with a certain number of bars. So you need to understand how to count and create these. Rap is mainly loop-based, meaning the same rhythms and beats repeat over and again in a loop -it’s the lyrics that change. 

Examples of three-minute songs

The length of your song will depend on the complexity of your structure. A simple verse-chorus song could be a minute or two. If you incorporate breakdowns, a bridge, a pre-chorus and additional hooks it could run over four. Here are some tunes from a variety of genres that run to around three minutes. 

#1 Hostage by Sia

#2 Hi Ho Silver Lining by Jeff Beck 

#3 Don’t Look Back Into the Sun The Libertines

#4 I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor by The Arctic Monkeys

#5 I Want You Back by The Jackson Five

#6 Love Machine by Miracles

#7 Impossible by James Arthur

#8 Stand by Me by Ben E King

A song that is just over three minutes will usually have 116 BPM, 8 bars of intro, 20 bars in each verse and 8 bars in a chorus. This should give you a format for how to structure your own pop song of around a three-minute duration. 

Related Questions

What is a bold double bar line in music?

If the bar line on sheet music is in bold and has another bar line beside it, it signifies the beginning or end of a piece of music. In US English the bar is more often referred to as the measure of music. 

What genre is 150 BPM?

The higher the BPM the faster the beat and the more intense the track will feel. 150 beats per minute are more common in house and techno, whereas pop would range between 100 and 120 BPM. 128 is ideal for dancing. 

What is a 16 bar verse?

A 16 bar verse is the format currently used in rap music. Usually, pop songs will be slightly longer – around 20 bars. Then after the verse, the chorus, or refrain will kick in, before returning to more verses. 

What’s your favourite three-minute song? Have you been able to calculate the number of bars it has? Do you listen to songs that are longer than three minutes, or do you find anything above that is too lengthy? Let us know in the comments section.