What You Need To Know About The Music Staff

The staff or stave notation is the most common way of written music down in modern world. While lines and spaces represent the pitch, the note symbols has specific beat that they denoted. Thus the notes are on the staff in accordance with their corresponding pitch or function. In order for a musician to read music on the staff fluently, he or she must know the order of pitch and the duration in term of beat that each symbol of the notes represent. Also he must know what other musical symbols and mark means and how to use and place them on the staff.

The Staff (or Stave)

The method of using standard five-line known as staff for musical notation is traditionally ascribed to Guido d’Arezzo. Guido d’Arezzo is an Italian medieval music theorist who firstly used four lines to notate music by applying a different color to each line and use letters for the clef. This style of using lines for musical notation later developed to five live called staff (or stave) which are in use today.

ALSO READ: What You Need To Know About Musical Sound and Tone

The staff is five horizontal lines that are parallel to each other with four equal spaces between them. In an actual sense, the staff is the template for all musical symbols and notes used in musical notation. Each of the five lines of the staff symbolizes the pitches of a tone. The same thing is applicable to the space between each line because they also symbolize the pitch of a tone. The lines and spaces of staff serve as a pitch value for all musical symbols and marks such as notes, rest, clef signs, sharp and flat placed on it.

The Staff Lines

Be aware that the musical symbol for a note can be either on a line or in space. In short, each line or space of the staff is for musical notes and other musical symbols. When a note is on the line, the staff line will run through the middle of the note. On the other hand, a note in space will sit between the staff lines.

Moreover, we still need a clef symbol to establish a staff for notes placement. The clef is a symbol that will attach a particular note with a line or space. Also, it will let us know which notes belong to the particular lines and spaces that we have on the staff. Without the clef symbol on the music staff, the placement of notes on staff will be meaningless. Hence, the clef is a very important symbol on the staff.

Pitch And The Staff

You read notes on the staff in a particular order from left to right. Notes represent sounds in duration and placed on the staff according to its pitch. A less musically specific phrase for pitch is frequency, which also has low or high attributes. As we have already mentioned, the major function of musical staff is to establish a pitch of a sound or tone. This it does with both lines and spaces. The higher lines and spaces denote a higher pitch while the lower lines and spaces denote a lower pitch. This applies to all the notes placed on the staff in reference to their pitch.

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Therefore, the note with the higher frequency or pitch will be on the upper line or space. Likewise, a note with a lower frequency or pitch will be on the lover line or space.  In like manner, the higher the note on the staff, the higher the pitch of the note. This rule is not clef specific, it applies to all clefs the staff used. Click and read All You Should Know About The Musical Clef to learn more about musical clef.

Higher and lower pitched notes
Higher and lower pitched notes

Hence, we can say that if the notes are higher on the staff, they are higher in pitch. Also, if the notes are lower on the staff, they are lower in pitch. To notate very well on the staff, the lines and spaces of the staff are numbered from bottom to the top. The bottom line has lowest pitch and is the first line while the top line has the highest pitch and numbered as the fifth line. The various pitches of the music are referred to by the first seven letters of the alphabet (A B C D E F G) called musical alphabets.

Ledger (or Leger) Line

Ledger lines are short and detached line use in staff notation to extend the range of staff. So they are the short lines that looks like dash in nature above or below the staff lines. They are always around note that will take them with same distance as that of the lines in the main staff. This line also known as leger line can be called an extension of the music staff or the staff extender. This is true because they are the continuation of the staff.

Ledger Lines

The aim of the ledger line is to extend the staff up or down and create rooms for more pitch. Of course, it helps us to expand the staff to go beyond the range of pitch it contains. Thus, ledger lines are employed to notate any note that goes beyond the upper and lower limit of a staff. Consequently, the staff takes in more notes that are higher or lower in pitch than what it can accommodates. The lines that are below the staff are for the lower notes and those above the staff are for higher notes. So when we run out of space on the staff, we use ledger lines as support.

The Grand Staff (or Stave)

In particular, the grand staff displays the full spectrum of musical pitches in which two clefs were combined as a unit. It made up of two staves, each with five horizontal lines. and four spaces. These two staves know as G-clef and F-clef are placed one above the other. The F-Clef (treble clef) is the one at the top end while G-Clef (Bass Clef) is placed at the bottom end. However, the symbols that define each staff know as the Clef is placed at the beginning of each staff on the left hand side. There is a note that is common to the two clefs which is C and known as Middle C. Of course, the middle C lies between the two music staves that comes together to form a great staff. Middle C used a ledger line to have its place on the grand staff.

Grand Staff
Grand Staff

The picture above shows what the Grand staff looks like. The bracket is always used to join both staff together with the aim to show that the two staff are one unit.

ALSO READ: Facts You Need To Know About Musical Notation

Absolutely, grand staff increases the range of pitch we have and also makes a room for a wide range of notes. Instrument with wide ranges of notes like piano and harpsichord are majorly utilized great staff for their notation. The upper staff is majorly for the right hand in treble clef while the lower staff is designated for the left hand in bass clef. In addition, the grand staff makes it easy to notate complex polyphonic composition that classical and art music is known for. To play notes scored for these instruments, you should be able to read the treble and bass staff with ease. To achieve this, you must be competent in reading each staff individually and fluently. Hence, reading them together will be easier.


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