Treble and Bass Clefs

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Music sometimes sounds very high, or very low. To write these notes on a staff takes up space, and Clefs help to compact that space. In fact, two staves may sit atop one another to hold all the sounds in a song.

Clefs are the first symbol we see at the start of a musical staff. With two staves, a treble clef may begin a staff on top (higher notes), and a bass clef for the bottom staff (lower notes). Clefs tell us how to name lines and spaces of staves.

Treble Clef

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A treble clef names the lines and spaces in order, from bottom, EFGABCDEF. Also, from bottom to top, the letters are in alphabetical order. The treble clef visually circles the 'G' line. This is why the treble clef is sometimes called the G Clef.

Bass Clef

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On a staff, a bass clef names the lines and spaces from the bottom, GABCDEFGA. Again, from bottom to top, the letters are in alphabetical order. The bass clef visually circles the 'F' line, and its two dots are on either side of that line. This is why the bass clef is sometimes called the F Clef. You may notice the note order drops down one line or space, respectively, from the treble clef's staff.

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Instruments that play higher notes may play only in treble clef. Those that play lower notes may play solely in bass clef. A piano usually plays the right hand in treble clef, and left hand in bass.

Middle C

You may wonder if the clefs share any letters, or notes, in common? Or, when the notes from bass clef get higher, do they go up into the treble clef staff? Yes, they do, starting from the 'C' note.

For higher notes above the bass clef staff's top line, we must somehow add extra lines. These short, additional lines are called ledger lines. We may add only one line to reach treble clef's range. The 'C' note covers that one ledger line. So, where does 'C' land on the treble clef? It's one ledger line below the treble clef staff.

Now, one ledger line above the bass, and below the treble clef staves is 'C'. It's called Middle C, to be exact, as it's in the middle of the two staves (it's also the 'C' key in the middle of a piano). Connect the letters from the bass clef to the treble clef, starting from bottom:

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Notice the notes are in alphabetical order, starting from the bottom 'G'.

Treble ClefEFGABCDEF
Ledger LineB - C - D
Bass ClefGABCDEFGA

Finally, Clefs begin a staff to name lines and spaces' notes. Treble and Bass Clefs have different names for the lines and spaces. These highs and lows are the sounds that sheet music transcribes. Treble is higher than bass. And the two staves share Middle C.

Recommended pages: Octaves, BC/EF Exception

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