How Music is Displayed

When displaying music on a piece of paper it becomes necessary to break the measures apart into lines, just like words in a book. A "system" is a horizontal block of staves on a piece of paper. Depending on how many staves are in the music, a system can be large or small. Measures in each staff are displayed within the system.

The illustration below depicts a composition that contains 3 staves as it might be displayed on a piece of paper:

The number of systems that fit onto a page depends on many factors, including the page and staff size, spacing around each system, and the number of staves that are in the music. A composition containing 6 staves, for example, takes more vertical space on the page than does a single-staff piece.

The number of measures that can be reasonably displayed within a given system depends entirely on the music - lots of 32nd notes, for example, takes more horizontal space to display, whereas a single whole note doesn't take much room at all.

Note in the illustration that the second system contains more measures than does the first system. By changing the number of measures in each system to fit your music you can create professional-looking printouts that are clean and easy-to-read.