Music theory > Pitch of sounds > The staff (stave)

The staff (stave)


united states of america Staff (sing.) / staves (plur.)
united kingdom Stave (sing.) / staves (plur.)


The staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) is composed by 5 horizontal lines and by 4 spaces. Staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) is used to put music notes.

Staff, lines ans spaces

Music notes can be on a line or in a space.

Usage of the staff united states of america (stave united kingdom)

Music notes are reading from left to right, like a book.

staff, direction of reading

Music notes can be written on a line or in a space.

Music notes can be written on a line or in a space

If a note is in a line, next and previous notes will be on spaces.

If a note is in a line, next and previous notes will be on spaces.

If a note is on a space, next and previous notes will be on lines.

If a note is on a space, next and previous notes will be on lines.

High-pitched notes are on top of the staff united states of america (stave united kingdom), and low-pitched notes are on the bottom of the staff united states of america (stave united kingdom).

Staff, low and high notes positions

Ledger lines

If there is no more lines or space to draw music notes, ledger lines are used. Ledger lines will extend the staff united states of america (stave united kingdom).

staff and ledger lines


note: The word ledger can be spelled leger.

Grand staff united states of america / Great stave united kingdom


The grand staff united states of america (Great stave united kingdom) is composed by 2 staves joined by a brace and is mainly used for the piano or the harp. The grand staff united states of america (Great stave united kingdom) increase the range of music notes that can be written.

Example with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played by a harp:


Ensemble staves


For more than one instrument, multiple staves are used.

Here is an example of the divertimento K563 from Mozart for violin, viola and cello.


Other staves

Staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) for percussion instruments

Some percussion instruments need only one staff united states of america (stave united kingdom), in this case just one line is needed.

Example with a tambourine:


Staff united states of america (stave united kingdom)for the guitar

A lot of guitarists don't use the 5 lines staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) but use a 6 lines staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) instead. There is one line for each string of the instrument, it is called [p]a tablature

(TAB), the lowest line represent the lowest string and the highest line represent the highest string.[/p]

Staff united states of america (stave united kingdom)for the bass guitar

The bass guitar has only 4 strings, so the tablature is composed by only 4 lines.


Non similar staves usage

Non similar staves can be used simultaneously


Ancient staves

In the past, like for Gregorian chants, the staves was very different, with only 4 lines.

Old staves, gregorian chants

What do you will see on staves

On staves, you will see:


- Clefs
- Accidentals
- Time signatures
- Music notes
- Rests
- Dynamics

Elements on staff

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