An Introduction to…the Music Staff

An Introduction to the Music Staff

Understanding the basics of music theory can go a long way in helping you read sheet music, create music, and communicate with other musicians. And Sheet Music Direct is here to help! Take a look at our introductions to other key music theory topics, including pitch, chords, rhythm, and intervals.

The Music Staff

Pitch and rhythm are both written on a staff consisting of five lines and four spaces.

Each line and each space on the staff represents a different pitch. The pitches are defined by the clef, a symbol placed at the beginning of the first staff of a musical piece.

There are several different clefs, each suited for the pitch ranges of various instruments. The treble or "G" clef shown below is the most commonly used clef. The lower loop of the clef encircles the second line, which is the note G.

Once the note G is defined on the staff, all the others fall into place.

The lines on the treble clef are E–G–B–D–F (Every Good Boy Does Fine). The spaces on the treble clef spell the word "FACE."

Note that the two letter sequences, E–G–B–D–F and F–A–C–E, are simply every other note of the alphabet.

For pitches beyond the range of the staff, ledger lines must be used.

Notice that the F–A–C–E acronym we learned for the spaces inside the staff appears again from the top line of the staff to the ledger lines above. The same applies from the bottom line of the staff to the ledger lines below, only backwards; E–C–A–F is “FACE” spelled backwards as the ledger lines descend.

The bass clef is also called the "F" clef because two dots surround the pitch F on the fourth line. From here, we can see that the lines of the bass clef are G–B–D–F–A, which we can remember as "Good Boys Do Fine Always." The spaces are A–C–E–G, which we can remember as "All Cows Eat Grass."

All Cows Eat Grass is found on the ledger lines above and below the bass staff, too.

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