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Grand Staff in Music | Symbols & Notation

Alexa Barta, Cathy Neff
  • Author
    Alexa Barta

    Alexa has taught English as a Second Language for over 7 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Minnesota, Morris as well as an additional bachelor's degree in Statistics from the same institution. She also has experience working and living abroad in both Spain and Brazil, where she taught English to native Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers..

  • Instructor
    Cathy Neff

    Cathy has taught college courses and has a master's degree in music.

What is the grand staff in music? Learn the notes on the grand staff, how many lines are in a staff, and what note sits in the middle of the grand staff. Updated: 10/29/2021

The Grand Staff

In music, a grand staff , or great stave, as it is called in British English, is two staves with five lines each that are connected by a brace. A brace is a curved line that visually connects two or more musical staves that are dependent on each other. Similar to a brace is a bracket, which is a straight line that visually connects any number of independent musical staves that may or may not be similar.

A grand staff illustrates notes of music played by a single musical instrument or sung by a single voice. Grand staff notes may sometimes have short lines, called ledger lines, above, below, or even in the middle of the note. Ledger lines illustrate when a note is being extended above or below its range on the musical staff.


Ledger lines are used in music to extend a music note above or below its range on a staff.

A treble clef staff showing notes above the staff intersected by short horizontal lines

It is helpful to look at an image of a grand staff labeled with the notes to learn what note sits in the middle of the grand staff. Vertically, the note that is placed exactly in the middle of the grand staff is the C note, also called middle C.


A grand staff consists of two staves, each with their own music notes.

A grand staff in music with each line containing a musical note and its respective letter name

What is a Staff in Music?

What is a staff in music, and how many lines are in a staff? The grand staff is just one type of staff that exists in music. The staff music definition refers to a group of five horizontal lines on which musical notes are placed according to pitch. The grand staff consists of the treble staff, which carries the treble clef, and the bass staff, which carries the bass clef. A clef is a symbol at the beginning of a staff that determines the pitch of the notes. The treble clef shows notes that are above middle C, while the bass clef shows notes that are below middle C. Individual instrument or voice parts are often given on just one staff because the range of possible notes that the instrument or voice can produce is often limited to the notes in just one clef.


The treble clef shows the pitches of notes that are above middle C.

A treble staff with eight musical notes placed on its lines


The bass clef shows the pitches of notes that are below middle C.

A bass staff with eight musical notes placed on its lines

Each space and each line on a staff represents one musical note. The intervals between lines and spaces on the staff represent whole steps and half steps. The lines and spaces on the treble staff (from bottom to top) represent the notes E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F. One common mnemonic for remembering the notes on the lines of the treble staff is Every Good Boy Does Fine. The notes in the spaces of the treble staff can be remembered using the mnemonic FACE. The lines and spaces on the bass staff (from bottom to top) represent the notes G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A. To remember the notes on the lines of the bass staff, the mnemonic Great Big Dogs Fight Animals is helpful. The notes on the spaces of the bass staff can be remembered with the mnemonic All Cows Eat Grass.

Understanding the Grand Staff

When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, you put the border together first, so you have a framework for the other pieces. In piano music, this framework is called the Grand Staff, and it consists of two separate staves of five lines each that are connected by a brace on the left side, like you see here:

Grand Staff

Without a captain to tell them what to do, the crew of a ship is just a bunch of people with no purpose. Likewise, without a clef to tell us what notes are on a staff, the staff is just a bunch of lines with no meaning. The clef on the top staff is called the treble clef, and it tells your right hand what to do on the piano. The bottom staff uses a bass clef, and it tells your left hand what to do on the piano.

These clefs tell us the names of the notes on the staff. Notice the 'curlicue' of the treble clef on the top staff. It wraps around the second line from the bottom and tells us that this line is G; this is why the treble clef is also referred to as the G clef. Now look at the bass clef. Notice that the two dots of the clef are on either side of the second line from the top. This tells us that this line is F, and this is why the bass clef is also referred to as the F clef.

The names of the notes on the piano go from A to G and then start over. The lines and spaces of each staff do the same thing, but 'A' is not conveniently located at the bottom of either staff. The lines on the bass staff from the bottom to top represent the notes of G-B-D-F-A, which is often remembered by the phrase 'Good Boys Do Fine Always.' The spaces of the bass staff from bottom to top represent the notes A-C-E-G and are remembered by the phrase, 'All Cows Eat Grass.'

Starting at the bottom, the lines of the treble staff represent the notes E-G-B-D-F, and are remembered by the phrase 'Every Good Boy Does Fine.' The spaces on the treble clef spell the word F-A-C-E from bottom to top.

music grand staff names

You'll notice that there is a big gap in note names between the treble and bass staves of the Grand Staff. The bass staff ends on A, and the treble staff begins on E, so what do we do with B, C, and D? The B is placed on the staff directly above the top line of the bass staff, and the D is placed on the space directly below the bottom line of the treble staff. But what about C?

When we run out of lines and spaces above or below either staff, we use what are called ledger lines to temporarily make the staff bigger. Instead of adding a whole new line that runs the width of the page, we shorten it to just around that one note. The C in between the two staves is called middle C, and can be written on either the top or bottom staff, like you see here:

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  • 0:04 Understanding the Grand Staff
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Music Staff Symbols

In addition to clefs, music staffs use various symbols to denote information about the piece of music, like how fast or slowly the music should be played and where there are sharps and flats. One of the music staff symbols is the key signature. The key signature indicates which notes in the octave should be raised or lowered by placing sharps or flats on the lines and spaces that represent those notes. The specific patterns of sharps and flats or absence of sharps and flats represent systems called keys. The time signature is located on a staff directly after the key signature. The time signature is a symbol that indicates the meter of the music on the staff with two numbers stacked vertically. The number of units in each measure of music are specified by the top number. The type of note that represents one unit is specified by the bottom number. The time signature 4/4 is so commonly used in music that it is also called Common Time and is sometimes represented by the letter C in the time signature of a staff.


The key signature indicates the key of a measure of music by using sharps and flats to show which notes should be raised or lowered.

A treble staff with a key signature containing five sharps


The 4/4 time signature is so commonly used in music that it is also called Common Time and is sometimes represented by the letter C.

Two treble staffs, one with the letter C written after it, and the other with the fraction 4/4 written after it

Middle C

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Video Transcript

Understanding the Grand Staff

When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, you put the border together first, so you have a framework for the other pieces. In piano music, this framework is called the Grand Staff, and it consists of two separate staves of five lines each that are connected by a brace on the left side, like you see here:

Grand Staff

Without a captain to tell them what to do, the crew of a ship is just a bunch of people with no purpose. Likewise, without a clef to tell us what notes are on a staff, the staff is just a bunch of lines with no meaning. The clef on the top staff is called the treble clef, and it tells your right hand what to do on the piano. The bottom staff uses a bass clef, and it tells your left hand what to do on the piano.

These clefs tell us the names of the notes on the staff. Notice the 'curlicue' of the treble clef on the top staff. It wraps around the second line from the bottom and tells us that this line is G; this is why the treble clef is also referred to as the G clef. Now look at the bass clef. Notice that the two dots of the clef are on either side of the second line from the top. This tells us that this line is F, and this is why the bass clef is also referred to as the F clef.

The names of the notes on the piano go from A to G and then start over. The lines and spaces of each staff do the same thing, but 'A' is not conveniently located at the bottom of either staff. The lines on the bass staff from the bottom to top represent the notes of G-B-D-F-A, which is often remembered by the phrase 'Good Boys Do Fine Always.' The spaces of the bass staff from bottom to top represent the notes A-C-E-G and are remembered by the phrase, 'All Cows Eat Grass.'

Starting at the bottom, the lines of the treble staff represent the notes E-G-B-D-F, and are remembered by the phrase 'Every Good Boy Does Fine.' The spaces on the treble clef spell the word F-A-C-E from bottom to top.

music grand staff names

You'll notice that there is a big gap in note names between the treble and bass staves of the Grand Staff. The bass staff ends on A, and the treble staff begins on E, so what do we do with B, C, and D? The B is placed on the staff directly above the top line of the bass staff, and the D is placed on the space directly below the bottom line of the treble staff. But what about C?

When we run out of lines and spaces above or below either staff, we use what are called ledger lines to temporarily make the staff bigger. Instead of adding a whole new line that runs the width of the page, we shorten it to just around that one note. The C in between the two staves is called middle C, and can be written on either the top or bottom staff, like you see here:

Middle C

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between staff and grand staff?

In music, a staff is one unit consisting of five horizontal lines. A grand staff is two individual staffs connected by a brace.

What does a grand staff show?

For musical instruments, a grand staff shows the notes that are played by one individual instrument. For singers, a grand staff shows the notes that are sung by one individual singer.

What are the notes on the grand staff?

The notes on the grand staff may vary depending on which staffs are included in it. The notes on a grand staff consisting of one bass staff and one treble clef are (in ascending order) G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A on the bass staff and E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F on the treble staff.

How many lines are in the grand staff?

A grand staff consists of two staffs, and each staff has five lines. Therefore, there are a total of ten lines in a grand staff.

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