The Stave (sometimes called The Staff)

Basics      The Stave - sometimes called the staff

The Stave - Your first step on the ladder

The Stave is the canvas upon which the music is painted.  Without it, there'd be no way to tell the reader which note to play.

So, what does the stave look like? Are you ready? I bet you're excited! Here it is.

The Stave

Yes, it's only five horizontal black lines - fairly dull right? But on those lines can be written the entirity of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata,  or Metalica's Enter Sandman :)

It really is a magical invention. 

I apologise to our USA readers for using the name "the stave".  This website was made in the UK, hence our bias. US readers, please freely interchange "the staff" for "the stave"! 

Think of the stave like your stairs at home. Imagine if one day you got out of bed, for some reason you were feeling on top of the world, and you just couldn't stop humming. 

It was a strange morning, because when you climbed the stairs to the bathroom to clean your teeth, every step travelled up made your humming become higher in pitch, and every step down made your humming lower again.

After exhausting yourself by investigating this strange phenomena, you retreated to the breakfast table to gain valuable insights into what had just happened.

In a flash of inspiration, you thought to yourself how musical notes can be represented like a ladder, or set of stairs. Each step up results in a higher pitch, and each step down results in a lower pitch.

Then, in a moment of brilliance destined to transform the future of the entire planet, you realised it would be possible to write music down on a sheet of paper, just as you could already write words.

You simply drew a ladder.

But then you realised there's a limitation to that idea. Music involves different notes occuring at different times. How could you write that on a ladder.

Eureka! Thinking that this was possibly the most inspired day of your entire life, you had a final brainwave. If you made the ladder really wide,  you could write lots of notes (dots) on there, start on the left, and as time progresses, move to the right.

Now you could actually write an entire song on there!

And thus was born the stave! (or the staff if you're from the USA).

Interesting Fact: The invention of the Stave

The invention of the stave (the staff), the five horizontal black lines upon which all music is written, is accredited to Guido of Arezzo, an Italian Benedictine monk born around 991 AD.

It is said that Guido was inspired to develop the stave after noting the difficulty that many singers had in remembering Gregorian Chants - those beautiful choral chants associated with the Christian religion.