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All music notation is written using a staff. A staff (also called a stave) is five horizontal lines, closely spaced, with a clef on the far left.


    /\                                                     
---| /-----------------------------------------------------
   |/                                                      
---/-------------------------------------------------------
  /|                                                       
-/-|/\-----------------------------------------------------
|  |  |                                                    
|--|--|----------------------------------------------------
 \ |  |                                                    
--\|_/-----------------------------------------------------
   |                                                       
  \|                                                       

Most musical instruments can only play one note at a time, so one staff is used with a suitable clef. For piano music and other instruments which can play many notes at once, two staffs are combined and called the grand staff.

A musical note is drawn either on a line or is nestled between two of them. When the treble clef is used, for instance, the bottom line is E above middle C. The space between the bottom two lines is F, the second line from the bottom is G, and so forth; the top line is second F above middle C.


    /\                                             
---| /------- F -------------------------------------------
   |/         E 
---/--------- D -------------------------------------------
  /|          C
-/-|/\------- B -------------------------------------------
|  |  |       A
|--|--|------ G -------------------------------------------
 \ |  |       F
--\|_/------- E -------------------------------------------
   |
  \|

When playing notes above or below the staff (say, middle C or high C) a short line called a ledger line is drawn where a sixth staff line would be. Additional ledger lines are drawn as needed until the desired note is reached.


            - C -           --O-
              B              |
            - A -           -|--
    /\        G              |
---| /------- F -------------|-----------------------------
   |/      
---/-------------------------------------------------------
  /|       
-/-|/\-----------------------------------------------------
|  |  |                           
|--|--|-----------------------|----------------------------
 \ |  |                       |
--\|_/------- E --------------|----------------------------
   |          D               |
  \|        - C -           -O--

For very high notes, an octave symbol may be used to indicate that one or more notes should be played an octave higher than indicated.

The staff is divided up into individual measures by bar-lines and, at the end of the musical piece, is terminated by a double bar-line.