The Various Clefs

The Musical Staff & Various Clefs Reading between the lines

We begin learning to read sheet music by breaking down the various attributes and notation used. I’ll explain each symbol’s function and common use individually. Let’s start by referring to sample staff illustrated below.

The musical staff is constructed of 5 horizontal lines separated by 4 spaces used for the placing of the symbols of musical notation of the major and minor scaling systems. The staff is divided by vertical lines or bars, also called bar-lines, separating the measures of time in the musical phrases.

The grand staff consist of staves (pl) of both the lower and higher pitched voices or instruments and may be two or three stacked staves connected by double vertical end bars as shown below.

The Clefs Determining the Pitch

A clef is placed at the beginning of the first measure of the staff indicating the pitch of the instrument for which the music is written.

The G or treble clef is used for some medium to higher pitched instruments.
The F or bass clef is used for the lower pitched voices and instruments.
This is the alto or C clef, used for some medium pitched voices or instruments. The C clef is also used for other medium to higher pitched voices and instruments depending upon where it is placed on the staff.
The C clef used for tenor voices and instruments is centered on the second line of the staff.
The C clef used for soprano voices and instruments is centered on the fourth line of the staff.
The C clef used for mezzo-soprano voices and instruments is centered on the fifth line of the staff.

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