Elements of the Piano Staff

The piano staff will tell you just about any information about a piece of music that you want. This part of the sheet music will tell you all you need to know about the song you are about to play.

There are many important elements to a piece of sheet music that the musician must know. Let’s jump right in, and take a look at the part of the staff that you must know to learn how to read music.

What is the Musical Staff

The piano staff is full of important information that you must know. It tells you not only the notes you need to play, but other vital information that you have to know to play the song.

Piano Staff

Just look at the image above and see how much there is on the staff, and there isn’t even a note in the picture.

Most beginners just focus on the notes in the staff. They will just start playing, and realize that things aren’t sounding right. You have to study the entire piano staff for all the necessary pieces of information.

The piano staff is also known as the grand staff. It is a combination of both the treble and bass clef.

Let’s begin by discussing all the parts of the staff that aren’t note related.

Elements of the Grand Staff

Measure Number

If you look back at the image you can see that there is a number 1 in the top left corner of the musical staff.

This number tells us that this is the first measure of the song.

Measure Number

A measure is one section of beats in a piece of music. So, this number tells us that this is the first section in the song.

In this image you can see how each of the section are numbered one through 5. This tells us that there are five measures in this segment of music.

Why are measure numbers helpful?

They can easily guide you to a particular part in complex piece of music. Say your music teacher tells you that you need to work on measures 40 through 50. You can easily turn to that part of the music without having to count each of the measures.

Bar Line

A bar line is a vertical line that separates each of the measures in a piece of music.

In the common four-four time signature, each measure has four beats. In order to separate each set of four, we use a bar line. The bar line a visual that helps us section off each measure into its equal set of four beats.

In other styles of music there are only three beats per measure, this is called three-four time. Since there is only three beats per measure here, each bar line will separate groups of three instead of groups of four.


Music Brace
The brace on the piano staff is very important. This tells us that the two clefs, bass and treble, are to be played together by the same instrument.

The brace is important because if you ever experience choral music, or a piece of sheet music that contains multiple instruments on it, it can be confusing to know which is the piano part and which is for the other instrument.

The brace will indicate which clefs are used for the piano. It connects each of the clefs, telling the musician that these clefs go together.

Treble Clef and Bass Clef

Treble and Bass Clef
The Treble Clef and Bass Clef represent the notes on the grand staff. It also tell us which hand to play a particular note with.

The right hand will play the notes in the treble clef, and the left hand will play the notes in the bass clef.

The word treble means higher in pitch, and bass means lower in pitch. So, the treble clef notes are going to be high in pitch, while the bass clef notes are going to be lower in pitch.

As the notes go down in the bass clef they get lower in pitch, and as they go up the treble clef they get higher.

The two clefs are also called the G Clef and F Clef. If you look at the image, you can see that the treble clef can be called the G clef, and the bass clef called the F clef.

G Clef     F Clef

This naming comes from which note goes through the clef.

A G line runs through the center of the bottom curl.

An F line runs between the two dots.

This is how you determine the name of the clef. The clef can be moved to a different line, which will change the name. This happens mostly in orchestra instruments.

Click here if you need more instruction with the treble clef or bass clef.

Key Signature

Key Signature
The Key Signature is one of the most important parts of the piano staff. Before you ever start to play a song you need to know the key that the song is in.

The key signature tells you which notes will be sharp or flat.

If you look at the image you can see that there is one sharp in the treble clef and one sharp in the bass clef. They are both on an F note. This tells us that throughout this song, whenever we come to an F, we need to make it an F sharp instead.

This tells us that this song is in the key of G, because G has only one sharp.

There can be anywhere from no sharps or flats, up to seven. Take a looks at this key signature chart for every key signature.

Time Signature

Time Signature
The time signature tells us the number of beats per measure the song has. Like we talked about before, each measure has a particular of beats that we need to know so we can correctly play the song.

The piano staff to the right shows the common four-four time signature.

The number on the top tells us the number of beats per measure. So in four-four, there are four beats per measure. In three-four time, the three is on the top, telling us there are three beats per measure.

The number on the bottom tells us which note get one beat. In the example of four-four, the quarter note gets one beat, because the four represents the quarter note.

If we were in the time signature of six-eight, the eighth note would get one beat because the eight is on the bottom.

Double Bar Line

The double bar line is an indication of where the piece of music ends. It looks similar to a normal measure bar line, except it is a little thicker at the end. Watch for this double bar at the end of a piece of music.

Double bar Line

As you can see there’s a whole lot more to the piano staff then just the notes. There is a lot of information that is crucial to the song you are playing.

Make sure that each time you play a piece of sheet music that you take time to study all the elements of the musical staff before you start to play.

If you want more information on this, and other piano related topics Click Here!

Go From The Piano Staff Back to Piano Theory

Back to Home Page

Add me to a circle on Google+