Bar form (German: die Barform or der Bar) is a musical form of the
The term comes from the rigorous terminology of the Meistersinger
guilds of the 15th to 18th century who used it to refer to their songs
and the songs of the predecessors, the minnesingers of the 12th to
14th century. In their work, a Bar is not a single stanza (which they
called a Liet or Gesätz); rather, it is the whole song. The word Bar
is most likely a shortening of Barat, denoting a skillful thrust in
fencing. The term was used to refer to a particularly artful song –
the type one composes in songwriters' guilds.
The AAB pattern does, however, describe each stanza in a
Meistersinger's Bar, which is divided into two Stollen (A), which are
collectively termed the Aufgesang, followed by an Abgesang. The
musical form thus contains two repetitions of one melody (Stollen -
'stanzas') followed by a different melody (Abgesang - 'aftersong').
One such tune (Ton in
Meistersinger terminology) by Hans Folz
(c1437-1513) illustrates this:
Note that the B section is not necessarily the same length as each A
section. The B section can also incorporate parts of the A section's
phrase: in the above example, the final 14 notes of the B section
match the final 14 notes of each A section (see also Rundkanzone). In
this example, the 17 never-repeated notes starting the B section would
have been called a Steg by the Meistersingers: literally, "bridge";
whence comes the term for a contrasting section in popular music.
Richard Wagner in act III of his opera Die
Nürnberg, used the word Bar incorrectly as referring to a stanza of
the prize song. This was based on his misreading of Wagenseil. In
addition, Bach's famous biographer Spitta in his monumental 1873–80
biography, emphasized the role of Lutheran chorales, almost all of
which are in AAB form, in what he considered the most mature of Bach's
Johannes Brahms claimed the AAB form of the chorale
"Jesu, meine Freude" generates larger formal structures in Bach's
motet of the same name. Subsequent popularity and study of the use of
AAB stanzas in Bach's and Wagner's works has led to wide adoption of
Bar form for any song or larger musical form that can be
rationalized to a three part AAB form with the first part repeating.
Such AAB forms may be found in works ranging from Lutheran chorales to
"The Star-Spangled Banner" to songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms.
Bartok made use of the
Bar form in the 20th Century, and most blues
follow the pattern "A1A2B."
Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, entries on
Bar form and
minnesingers. (ISBN 0-674-37471-1)
Encyclopædia Britannica (2005), article on Bar form. 
A History of Western Music by Donald Grout (ISBN 0-393-09416-2)
^ Wagenseil, Johann Christoph (1697). De sacri rom. imperii libera
civitate noribrgensi commentatio, appendix Buch von der Meister-Singer
Holdseligen Kunst. Altdorf.
^ Spitta, Phillip (1873–1880). Johann Sebastian Bach, 2 vols.
Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel.
Musical form and development
Call and response
Sonata rondo form
Song structure (popular music)