This lesson will introduce you to the essentials of music notation. In it, I'll summarize the essentials of the system of notes and how to read them.
Western music is written on a staff that consists of five lines:
Staff lines are counted from the bottom:
Notes can be placed anywhere on the staff, on both lines and spaces:
We haven’t actually defined any specific notes at this point. For that, we need a 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:
See how the treble clef wraps around the second line from the bottom? This line, then, is the note 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:
… and the C clef:
The F clef is placed on the fourth line from the bottom, in which case it’s called the bass clef.:
Notes on this line are F, specifically the F below middle C:
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:
Notice how middle C isn’t even on the staff in this case? In order to notate it, we need a ledger line:
For the treble clef, middle C is below the staff, so this time we need a ledger line below the staff:
With these rules as guidelines you should now be able to learn the notes in music notation with ease.
Next lesson: How to Read Piano Notes
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