Staff Notation in Music

Music is written down in a number of different ways around the world. In the West, most instruments use a method called staff notation.

The music staff, or stave, is made up of 5 horizontal lines:

musical staff with 5 lines

On the music staff, notes are placed on the lines:

notes on lines

and in the spaces:

notes in spaces

Notes can have black or white heads. (See Time Names of Notes for more on this.)

The Treble Clef

We always put a clef at the beginning of the music staff. A clef is a symbol which identifies one note by name. We can work out all the other notes from this one.

The most common clef is the treble clef, which looks like this:

treble clef symbol

The treble clef tells us where on the music staff we should write the note G. We draw the treble clef so that the curly bit in the middle forms a sort of circle around one line on the staff- a note written on this line is a G.

treble clef and G

Sometimes it’s called the G clef because of this.

Now we know where the note G is, we can work out all the other positions of notes on the staff.

Letter Names

In music theory, we use the letter names A-G (always written in capital letters) to identify notes.

After G, the next note is A, (because we start the sequence again).

G is on a line on the music staff, so the next note up, A, is in a space:

treble clef, G and A

The next note up is B, which is on a line

treble clef, G, A and B

Here are all the lines and spaces of the music staff filled up:

notes in the treble clef

You can try to remember the letter names of the notes on lines by learning

Every Good Boy Deserves Football

Every Good Boy Deserves Football

And you can learn the notes in the spaces by memorising

D – FACE – G


or you can make up your own silly sentences to help you remember!

piano keyboard showing middle C

The note which comes before the first D in this series is called middle C.

On a piano keyboard, it’s the C nearest the keyhole.

Middle C is written under the stave, with a short line through the note – you can think of this line as an extension of the stave. The short line is called a ledger line.

middle C treble clef


Point your mouse at the staff (tap on mobiles) to reveal the answers.

  1. Give the letter name of each of the notes marked *. The first answer is given.


2. Write the notes which these letters represent. (Sometimes there are two possible positions, as in the first F.)