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Components of the Staff

The staff (or stave) is a set of five, equidistant, horizontal lines joined together by barlines. The staff is used to clearly communicate musical notation. Note symbols, dynamics, and other performance directions are placed within above and below the staff. More than one staff can be grouped with a bracket or a brace to create a system. The bracket typically groups independent parts to form a system. In the example below, the voice parts (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) are connected with the bracket to create visual grouping of the voice parts. They are independent because each of the voices only needs their part to perform the music. The brace typically groups dependent parts to form a system. In the example below, the piano parts are connected with a brace or curved bracket, to create the visual grouping of the piano parts. The parts are dependent because both treble clef and bass clef staves are necessary to perform the music on the piano.

The staff has several components that are commonly found in every composition. When discussing the staff, numbers are used to identify the lines and spaces. The numbers start from the bottom for both lines and spaces. When referring to lines and spaces above or below the staff, count from the first space above (or below) the staff or the first line above (or below) the staff.