Music Theory


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Music Theory - Clef Types



Clefs give us a practical method of writing music for many types of instruments, allowing all of these instruments to play the same piece in a harmonious way. The most commonly used today are the G-clef, C-clef, and F-clef, covering the vast majority of instrumental needs out there. 

Each of these three main clefs points to a specific note and pitch, so that all other notes can be determined in relation to this key note and pitch, much like an anchor. Historically these music symbols would be drawn on different lines of the staff (or stave), but the line they “pointed to” always held their anchor note. The higher the clef was positioned, the higher the pitch of the notes. 

Clefs1The G-clef, when drawn on the second line of the staff, is referred to as the treble clef. This is the only G-clef used today. Whichever line the G-clef circle begins on indicates that the note on this line is, and always will be, a G. Some instruments that use the treble clef are the saxophone, trumpet, clarinet and trumpet. 

Clefs2The F-clef, when placed on the fourth line of the staff is referred to as the bass clef. It resembles an old-fashioned F with two dots surrounding the line that dictates where the F note is drawn. This clef indicates that the sounds are lower, such as the keys on the left side of a piano, or a saxophone. 

Wide range instruments like the keyboard and harp use the grand stave, which has two sets of staff lines. The top lines are the treble clef and the lower lines are the bass clef, separated by a space for mid-range notes. With the keyboard, the treble is mostly played by the right hand, and the bass by the left hand. 

Clefs3The C-clefs are identical in appearance except for the line that the centre point lies upon. The center point of the tenor clef is positioned on the fourth line, and the center point of the alto clef rests on the third line. In each case, they always point to the middle C note, but the tenor clef signifies a slightly higher pitch than the alto clef. 

The C Clefs are used for music with a range that hovers around the Middle C, and for the upper ranges of normally low sounding instruments. This eliminates the need to switch many times between treble and bass clefs in a piece of music. 


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