This lesson will allow you to learn music notes by introducing you to music notation. In it, I summarize the essentials of the system of notes and how you can read them.

Western music is written on a staff that consists of five lines:

music staff

Staff lines are counted from the bottom:

staff lines

Notes can be placed anywhere on the staff, on both lines and spaces:

notes on staff

We haven’t actually defined any specific notes at this point. For that, we need a clef:

treble clef

A clef defines one specific line as representing a particular note. In this case, the G clef defines the note G, specifically the G above middle C. In this case, the G clef is called the treble clef:

treble clef staff

See how the treble clef wraps around the second line from the bottom? This line, then, is the note G:

treble clef G

By convention, the treble clef is always placed on the second line from the bottom, so that makes it easy to learn.

There are two other clefs, the F clef:

F clef

… and the C clef:

C clef

The F clef is placed on the fourth line from the bottom, in which case it’s called the bass clef.:

bass clef

Notes on this line are F, specifically the F below middle C:

bass clef F

The C clef can be placed on any line, and that line will define middle C.

Many students are very confused by the clefs when learning music notes, but if we relate them to the piano they actually become quite simple. If you’re learning the piano, you’ll be happy to discover that only the bass and treble clefs are used in piano music.

You should know that middle C is the C in the middle of the piano keyboard, the C closest to you if you’re sitting in the “front row center” of the piano:

middle C piano

Notice how middle C isn’t even on the staff in this case? In order to notate it, we need a ledger line:

bass clef middle C

For the treble clef, middle C is below the staff, so this time we need a ledger line below the staff:

treble clef middle c

With these rules as guidelines you should now be able to learn music notes with ease!

Next lesson: How to Read Piano Notes