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The staff is the fundamental latticework of music notation, upon which symbols are placed.
The five stave lines and four intervening spaces correspond to pitches of the diatonic scale—which pitch is meant by a given line or space is defined by the clef.
Ledger or leger lines
Used to extend the staff to pitches that fall above or below it.
Such ledger lines are placed behind the note heads, and extend a small distance to each side. Multiple ledger lines can be used when necessary to notate pitches even farther above or below the staff.
Used to separate measures.
Bar lines are extended to connect the upper and lower staffs of a grand staff.
Used to separate two sections of music.
Also used at changes in key signature, time signature or major changes in style or tempo.
Bold double barline
Used to indicate the conclusion of a movement or an entire composition.
G clef (Treble clef)
The centre of the spiral defines the line or space upon which it rests as the pitch G above middle C, or approximately 392 Hz.
Positioned here, it assigns G above middle C to the second line from the bottom of the staff, and is referred to as the "treble clef." This is the most commonly encountered clef in modern notation, and is used for most modern vocal music. Middle-C is the 1st ledger line below the stave here. The shape of the clef comes from a stylised upper-case-G.
F clef (Bass clef)
The line or space between the dots in this clef denotes F below middle C, or approximately 175 Hz.
Positioned here, it makes the second line from the top of the staff F below middle C, and is called a "bass clef." This clef appears nearly as often as the treble clef, especially in choral music, where it represents the bass and baritone voices. Middle C is the 1st ledger line above the stave here. The shape of the clef comes from a stylised upper-case-F (which used to be written the reverse of the modern F)
- Whole note
- (or Semibreve) Its length is equal to four beats in 4/4 time.
The whole note and whole rest may also be used in music of free rhythm, such as Anglican chant, to denote a whole measure, irrespective of the time of that measure
In music, a half note (or minim) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet).
- In time signatures with a bar length of 4 beats, such as 4/4 or 3/4 time, the half note is two beats long.
(or Crotchet) A note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve).
An eighth note (or quaver) is a musical note played for one eighth the duration of whole note (or Semibreve).
Flags are always on the right side of the stem, and curve to the right.
When multiple eighth notes or sixteenth notes (or thirty-second notes, etc.) are next to each other, the stems may be connected with a beam rather than a flag.
A sixteenth note (or semiquaver) is a note played for one sixteenth the duration of a whole note.
The half rest (or minim rest) denotes a silence for the same duration of a whole rest (or semibreve rest) and twice the duration of a quarter rest (or crotchet rest).
The whole rest (or semibreve rest), which usually denotes a silence equal to four beats in 4/4 time.
The quarter rest (or crotchet rest) denotes a silence of the same duration as a quarter note.
It typically appears as the symbol
and occasionally as the older symbol
The eighth rest (or quaver rest), which denotes a silence for one eighth the duration of whole note.
For notes of this length and shorter, the note has the same number of flags (or hooks) as the rest has branches.
The sixteenth rest (or semiquaver rest), which denotes a silence for one sixteenth the duration of whole note.
For rests of this length and shorter, the note has the same number of flags (or hooks) as the rest has branches.
Just for Fun!
What is this note/rest?
- Two hundred fifty-sixth note/rest
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used 128th and 256th notes in his Variations on Je suis Lindor, K. 354.
Beams connect eighth notes (quavers) and notes of shorter value, and are equivalent in value to flags.
- Dotted note
- Placing a dot to the right of a notehead lengthens the note's duration by one-half.
Rests can be dotted in the same manner as notes.
Additional dots lengthen the previous dot instead of the original note, thus a note with one dot is one and one half its original value, a note with two dots is one and three quarters, a note with three dots is one and seven eighths, and so on.
Indicates the number of measures in a resting part without a change in meter, used to conserve space and to simplify notation. Also called "gathered rest" or "multi-bar rest".
Raises the pitch of a note by one semitone.
Lowers the pitch of a note by one semitone.
Cancels a previous accidental, or modifies the pitch of a sharp or flat as defined by the prevailing key signature (such as F-sharp in the key of G major, for example).
Indicates that the two (or more) notes joined together are to be played as one note with the time values added together. To be a tie, the notes must be identical; that is, they must be on the same line or the same space; otherwise, it is a slur.
Indicates that two or more notes are to be played in one physical stroke, one uninterrupted breath, or (on instruments with neither breath nor bow) connected into a phrase as if played in a single breath. In certain contexts, a slur may only indicate that the notes are to be played legato; in this case, rearticulation is permitted.
Enclose a passage that is to be played more than once. If there is no left repeat sign, the right repeat sign sends the performer back to the start of the piece or the nearest double bar.
- Volta brackets
- (1st and 2nd endings, or 1st- and 2nd-time bars)
A repeated passage is to be played with different endings on different playings; it is possible to have more than two endings (1st, 2nd, 3rd ...).