What is Staff in Sheet Music?

What is staff in sheet music?

In sheet music, the staff (also called a stave) is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces where musical notes and other symbols are written.

It’s like the canvas upon which the music is painted in the form of notes and symbols, providing a visual representation of their pitch and rhythm.

This image is a section of sheet music showing two staffs, each having five horizontal lines and four spaces, and some notes and symbols plotted on them.

Understanding the staff is essential for anyone who wants to learn to read and play music. It’s the foundation of musical notation and the key to unlocking the secrets of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

What items are on a music staff?

Here’s a breakdown of what the staff looks like and how it works:


It consists of five horizontal lines and four spaces between them.

Each line and space represent a different musical pitch.


A clef symbol placed at the beginning of the staff identifies the pitch of a specific line.

The two most common clefs are the treble clef (G clef) and the bass clef (F clef).

The treble clef is used for higher-pitched instruments and voices, while the bass clef is used for lower-pitched instruments.


Musical notes are drawn on the lines and spaces of the staff.

Their position tells you the pitch, and their shape and flags tell you the duration (rhythm).

Note Placement

Musical notes are drawn on the staff according to their pitch.

The vertical position of a note on the staff indicates its pitch.

  • Higher positions on the staff represent higher pitches, and
  • Lower positions on the staff represent lower pitches.

Additional elements

Other symbols, such as rests, bar lines, and dynamic markings, are also placed on the staff to provide further instructions on how the music should be played, such as rhythm, musical phrasing, volume instructions, etc.

Ledger Lines

Sometimes, notes fall outside the five lines and four spaces of the staff. These notes are written on short extra lines added above or below the staff, called ledger lines.

Grand Staff

For instruments that play across a wide range of pitches, like the piano, two staves are often used together, connected by a brace. This is called a grand staff, with the treble clef staff on top and the bass clef staff on the bottom.

Percussion staff

Percussion instruments use a different type of staff with fewer lines and spaces, often representing different instruments or sounds.

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