Also does it vary on the time signature? I see that some have two bars some have four as well, Also when there is a new staff created underneath a previous one, is there a name for it like placing another treble clef staff underneath a previous one continuing the melody? See how the sheet music below has 4 bars and 2, why does it have to be 4 and the other one being 2? Cant it be 5,3,7 etc. is it based off the time sig?

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  • It is really not very clear at all what you are asking here. Could you post an image, perhaps, or describe in more detail exactly what you mean by "some have two some four as well"? – Old John Nov 23 '16 at 21:28
  • I just edited it hopefully it will be come clearer – Janice Cee Nov 23 '16 at 21:32
  • When you say '4 bars and 2', do you really mean 5 and 3? Because there are 5 bars on the first line, and 3 on the second. – endorph Nov 23 '16 at 21:42
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    I think you are confusing the bar line with the bar/measure, which, now that I think about it, is a little confusing. The bar line is the name of the line separating each measure and a bar is another name for a measure. So the top system has five bars and four bar lines and the bottom has three bars and two bar lines. However, if you count the end of the system as a barline they are equal. – jomki Nov 23 '16 at 22:45

The correct term for a group of staves that are played simultaneously is a system, but it's often called a "line," which can lead to confusion with other musical meanings of "line."

In general, you can have any number of measures per system, ("measures per staff" in your question isn't really correct) depending on how many notes they contain. This is exactly the same as asking "how many words make a line of text" - it depends if the words are "the cat sat on the mat" or "antidisestablishmentarian countermeasures".

In some situations, for example the music parts for theater performances, there is a convention of always writing exactly four measures per system. This makes it easier to do last-minute edits to the music, especially if most of the songs have four-measure phrases. If can re-print a just small section of the score and insert it into the original version without affecting everything else, you don't lose all the extra markings that the players have made in pencil during rehearsals!

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    There is a little extra confusion because American and British English are different. The vertical lines are always "barlines", but the space between two barlines is called a "bar" in England, and a "measure" in America. I think almost exclusively: I have never heard anyone in England say "measure", but the American Gardner Read's (otherwise excellent) book on music notation has a little rant on the evils of calling a "measure" a "bar"... – Brian Chandler Nov 24 '16 at 5:48

If I read your question correctly, I think you're asking about the number of bars on each line, and why it varies.

As far as I know, it's purely practical. Some bars have more notes, so they take up more physical space. Your example is also skewed by the fact that the piece ends. If there was another bar, I suspect it would end up on the same line.

Sometimes it gets split up so that the end of the musical phrase is also the end of the line, but there's no musical reason to do that. It can make it somewhat easier to read.

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As many as are needed. As many as facilitate readable note and lyrics (if any) spacing. As many as facilitate a neat page layout, without a short last line. Often 4.

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