Reading Music. Part 1 - The Musical Staff & Clefs

Now you can finally learn how to read music like a pro! With one quick read of this article, you be able to understand the musical staff like no other.

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INTRODUCTION Most guitarists fall back on guitar tablature to learn a song. With more and more of that happening, the majority of bands have someone hired to write their lead sheet. Well, I'm going to help you save some money and get some real musical knowledge under your belt with this teaching of the musical staff and the clefs In This Guide I Will Cover
  • The Origin
  • Treble Clef
  • Bass Clef
  • The Grand Staff
  • Tenor Clef
  • Alto Clef
  • Other Important Knowledge ORIGIN The musical staff is one of the things that has stayed the same for a very long time. Unlike most things, it has been around from the 12th to the 13th centuries. While at first it only had one line, the staff adapted over time to what we have today: (mainly in France and Europe) five lines. It also has ledger lines which I will ventilate in a later article. TYPES Most people when they hear of staffs (or in Europe staves) they think of the standard treble clef, bass clef, or grand staff. But to your advantage, I will teach you tips and techniques on all of the clefs so you can show off to all of your friends when you get a major record deal and write the lead sheet. TREBLE CLEF The treble clef is probably the most common clef in all of music. It is probably that way because such a plentiful amount of instruments can play in the range. Such as: violins, guitars, some voice, some cello and bass, and so on. If you notice on the image below, there is a little spiral part of the clef. You can always remember what the note names are by looking into the middle of the spiral part and that line is always the G Line... or you can just memorize them. Here are some ways that you can memorize the notes on the treble clef: Lines
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favor
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
  • Every Good Boy Does Fine
  • Every Good Bird Does Fly Spaces
  • F A C E The picture is here. BASS CLEF Now, we are going to chew on some bass clef material. The bass clef is centered on the F Line similar to the way the treble clef is centered on the G Line. You can tell by looking in-between the two dots and that will always be the F line. Or, once again, you can just memorize them with these sayings. Lines
  • Go Buy Donuts For Al
  • Great Big Dogs Fly Airplanes
  • Great Big Dreams For America
  • Good Boys Do Fine Always Spaces
  • All Cows Eat Grass
  • All Cars Eat Gas
  • Alley Cats Eat Garbage THE GRAND STAFF The grand staff is a major icon of modern music. With so many people playing piano, anybody with a hint of music knowledge should recognize this. the grand staff The grand staff is both the treble clef and the bass combined. This reason is so while playing the piano the bass clef is the left hand and the right hand is the treble clef. But, there are some variables to this. If the notes on the treble clef are too low, (this is the artist's opinion) and they want to keep the notes on that top staff, they can change the treble cleff into a bass cleff. Like this: Or, you can do it the other way around; switching them to treble clef. TENOR CLEF The tenor clef is one of the less known clefs in the art of music. The main reason is because only a handful of instruments play it. Such as the cello, bass, vocal, etc. You could add guitar in there, but it is rarely written in tenor clef because it isn't well known. You can remember the notes by remembering how it looks like a B and looking to the center of the B and it is the C line. That is why this clef is in the family of C Clefs There are no standard mnemonics(memorization sayings) for the tenor clef, so feel free to make up your own or whatever works best for you. ALTO CLEF The alto clef is probably the least popular clef out of these four clefs(not including the Grand Staff) The reason being is because there is a very sparse amount of instruments that play in this range. Probably the most popular instrument that plays this range is the viola, and previously the viola da gamba. You can remember this clef the same way that you rember the Tenor Clef. Look for the center of the B shape and that line is the C line. This clef is also a member of the C clef family. There are no standard mnemonics(memorization sayings) for the alto clef, so feel free to make up your own or whatever works best for you. OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION Some other helpful information is that the family of C clefs is virtually unlimited. You can just move the clef around and the center of the B shape will always be the C line. Although most of the moving around has already been done, most of those clefs are no longer used. If there is anything else that you want to learn with clefs such as baritone and octave clefs, you can always check out the Wikipedia page for clefs. CONCLUSION As you can see, there are more clefs that you now know, (unless, of course, you already knew all of this) and still more for you to explore. (see the Wikipedia Page above) WORKS CITED: -Wkipedia -Music Theory for Dummies (book) -All of my many music teachers over the years. By 0GibsonLesPaul0.
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    14 comments sorted by best / new / date

      gratefulduck
      very nice. i've wanted to learn for a long time and this article kind of slapped me in the face and screamed at me until i realized how obvious it was. the notes in the clef thing kinda blew my mind... cant wait to learn about the notes part
      Morrie2995
      good job mate. It took me two months to learn in school, what you've summed up in a rather short and informative article. Again good job
      Unknown_Biskit
      Great Lesson. I was already familiar with clefs, but I'm sure this will help out plenty of UG users.
      GameSkate
      For treble clef is also worth remembering that first lines E-G-B are making Em chord.
      mrddrm
      All chords are designed like that, GameSkate, with 3 of something (sometimes 4, if it is a 7th chord). This excludes some weird thing... like C E and F double Sharp, which is simply absurd. The only gripe I have with this essay is that with the instruments that play which clefs, technically any instrument can play on any clef due to octave equivalence. On top of that, the cello, my instrument, plays on Bass, Tenor, and Treble (usually), if we look at directly pitch equivalence. You come off that the cello only plays on the Tenor clef, but I'm sure you did not mean to come off like that, and I'm sure I'm being just a little too personal since cello is my main instrument! Oh, my other gripe is history. The 5 ledger lines is much more of a modern invention. The monks of Europe (since we are talking specifically Western Music) often didn't even have a time signature/measure lines, let alone ledger lines. It just wasn't practical since it was all done by hand... Notes were very different as well. Also, during this time period, the tenor clef was the most used clef, and it acted as a movable clef to represent different things, due to the main voice often being a tenor male (monk) with the other extremes being more chordal based. Somewhat ironically, tenor is now our least used, and often the melody goes to treble now. Oh, what a world, eh? I kid, I kid. But good basic essay!
      0GibsonLesPaul0
      mrddrm wrote: All chords are designed like that, GameSkate, with 3 of something (sometimes 4, if it is a 7th chord). This excludes some weird thing... like C E and F double Sharp, which is simply absurd. The only gripe I have with this essay is that with the instruments that play which clefs, technically any instrument can play on any clef due to octave equivalence. On top of that, the cello, my instrument, plays on Bass, Tenor, and Treble (usually), if we look at directly pitch equivalence. You come off that the cello only plays on the Tenor clef, but I'm sure you did not mean to come off like that, and I'm sure I'm being just a little too personal since cello is my main instrument! Oh, my other gripe is history. The 5 ledger lines is much more of a modern invention. The monks of Europe (since we are talking specifically Western Music) often didn't even have a time signature/measure lines, let alone ledger lines. It just wasn't practical since it was all done by hand... Notes were very different as well. Also, during this time period, the tenor clef was the most used clef, and it acted as a movable clef to represent different things, due to the main voice often being a tenor male (monk) with the other extremes being more chordal based. Somewhat ironically, tenor is now our least used, and often the melody goes to treble now. Oh, what a world, eh? I kid, I kid. But good basic essay!
      i play cello to! hey i just got done playing vocalise by rochmoninofff and am starting concerto in b minor by dvorchok or however you spell it.
      illyria
      HELL FUCKING YEAH!! just returned from graspop and to see this lesson is just double on the epic. i wil turn my vote up to eleven
      liberationarmy
      Morrie2995 wrote: good job mate. It took me two months to learn in school, what you've summed up in a rather short and informative article. Again good job
      same here. Even then i had to relearn it on my own. If i had learned this at first it woulda been much better
      g27dude
      The only problem I find with sheet music is it's quite hard to write it if you're in a drop tuning. I learned basic sheet music with my guitar teacher yet I almost never use it because My band plays in drop D. I find tabs to be quick and easier to use. either way, nice article!
      seemeel
      You have used some very strange sentences and words here... some words are vastly incorrect. Also, your 'origins' section is incorrect. But that's not a major thing - the actual content of this little run through appears to be quite good, albeit very basic. Not bad.
      mrddrm
      Despite playing cello since 4th grade, I've been relearning to play it at university : P Antonn Dvořk And why would it matter if tuning is different? It doesn't change what the notes are on the staff. They're usually lower.
      g27dude
      mrddrm wrote: Despite playing cello since 4th grade, I've been relearning to play it at university : P Antonn Dvořk And why would it matter if tuning is different? It doesn't change what the notes are on the staff. They're usually lower.
      Yeah it's just when you go from playing in standard to a drop tuning it's confusing to make that switch and just just right into the song. But then again I'm no professional musician so I'm not that great anyways.
      lilstillrocks
      This article made me feel so stupid. I've been trying to learn to read sheet music (although not whole-heartedly, i'll admit) for the past year, and only after reading this did I remember learning it in 5th grade. Thanks for waking up that dormant part of my brain