The staff, clefs & the middle C

You already know the musical note names on a piano keyboard, this lesson teaches you how to read and write music.

The Staff

The musical staff is made up of 5 horizontal lines. Musical notes and symbols are written on the lines and in the spaces. Notes placed on the lines are called line notes. Space notes are notes placed in the spaces. Each note on the staff represents a different pitch. The higher the note on the staff, the higher the pitch and its frequency.

staff

Treble Clef (or G-clef)

treble_clef

The treble clef (or G-clef) is the first musical symbol on the treble staff. Musical notes written on the treble staff are notes above the middle C note. The middle C note is the 4th C note on a modern 88-key piano keyboard. It is the C that is closest to the middle of the piano keyboard.

Middle C on a 49-key / 61-key / 76-key piano keyboards

modern piano keyboard and middle c

notes above the middle C

The middle C note is written below the treble staff on a ledger line. A ledger line is a short line used as an extension of the staff.

Treble Staff Space Notes

F – A – C – E are space notes on treble staff.

notes_above_c

Treble Staff Line Notes

E – G – B – D – F are line notes on treble staff.

treble_line_notes

Bass Clef (or F-clef)

bass_clef

The bass clef (or F-clef) is the first musical symbol on the bass staff. Musical notes written on the bass staff are notes below the middle C note. These notes below the middle C are played by the left hand on a piano keyboard.

bass staff middle c

notes below the middle C

Bass Staff Space Notes

A – C – E – G are space notes on bass staff

bass_space_notes

Bass Staff Line Notes

G – B – D – F – A are line notes on bass staff.

bass_line_notes

Notes written below the middle line have stems stick up (points upwards) on the right of the note. Notes on or above the middle line have stems trail down (points downwards) from the left of the note.

notes_staff

(whole note has no stem. A whole note is the type of note that has the longest note duration. Note duration is the timing of how long to hold the note. Other note types are half note, quarter note, eighth note and sixteenth note.)

The Grand Staff

The grand staff is made up of the treble staff and the bass staff. The top staff is the treble staff with the treble clef. The bottom staff is the bass staff with the bass clef. The treble and the bass clef staff are connected by a brace.

On the grand staff, the middle C note is placed between the two clefs. The middle C note is written on a ledger line below the treble staff and above the bass staff. A ledger line is a shortened staff line used to write musical notes that are too high or too low to be on the staff.

middle c on a grand staff

Here is an overview of the staff notes and their positions on the keyboard.

staff_keyboard

Continue to Sharps and Flats – Steps and Accidentals to learn about the musical note names of the black keys and know how to recognize them on the staff.

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