What is a stave?

Find out more about musical staves.

What is a stave?
Published: July 4, 2022 at 7:11 pm

Put simply, a stave (also known as a staff) is the collection of lines onto which notes are placed on a musical score. Each stave comprises five lines, creating four spaces in between them.

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Depending on where the notes have been placed (on or in between the lines) on a stave indicates which note should be played. Notes follow the alphabet from A to G, before circling back to A again. If a note is placed on the bottom line of a treble clef stave (which covers the soprano and alto ranges), it represents the E above middle C (also known as C4), the space between the bottom two lines represents F, and so on until you reach F again (an octave higher) on the top line of the stave.

Popular mnemonics to help people remember the order of notes on the treble clef stave include Every Good Boy Does Fine (EGBDF), for the notes on each line of the stave, starting with E on the bottom line. While ‘FACE’ is used as a memory aid for the notes in the spaces in between the lines, starting with F between the bottom two lines of the stave.

However, the bottom line on a bass clef stave (which covers tenor and bass ranges) represents G2 (two octaves lower than the G above middle C). The notes then follow the same A-to-G pattern up to the top line, which represents the A below middle C.

Other elements of a musical score, such as keys, time signatures, bar lines and rests, are also included within the lines of a stave. Whereas elements such as tempo and dynamics are usually written above or below the stave.

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Some notes are also placed above or below the range of the stave, on (or either side of) what are known as ledger (or leger) lines.

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