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Illustrated Tour of Sheet Music: Part One

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Staff & Bar Lines
Building the piano staff and barlines.

Measures are most commonly separated by single bar lines.

Image © Brandy Kraemer

Building a Musical Staff

A musical staff is a set of five horizontal lines containing notes, rests, and musical symbols. When notes are found off the staff, they’re placed on ledger lines.


  • Measures

    A measure is a section of the staff that comes between two bar lines (or barlines). Each measure satisfies the time signature; music written in 4/4 time will have four quarter-note beats per measure.

  • Double Bar Lines

    A double bar line is used to separate different sections of a song, and may mark the transition into a different time signature, key signature, or overall style.

    A bold double bar line is a final bar line, and marks the end of a song or movement.

Note: The plural of staff is “staves.” In British English, a singular staff is called a “stave.”



See More Musical Symbols:
■Staff & Barlines    ■Note Lengths     ■Articulation Marks    ■Repeat Signs
The Grand Staff      ■Dotted Notes      ■Dynamics & Volume      ■Segno & Coda Signs
Time Signatures       ■Accidentals        ■Key Signatures      ■Pedal Marks
Tempo Commands     ■Piano Chords         ■Music Rests          ■8va & Octave Commands


Related Video
Note Reading Basics

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