Notes are written on a staff of five lines, separated by four spaces. The staff begins with a clef symbol to indicate what pitches correspond to the lines and spaces. Higher pitches correspond to higher positions on the staff.

The treble clef is also called the G clef. It vaguely resembles a G and it circles around the second line (from the bottom) of the staff, which represents G.

The bass clef – or F clef – looks something like an F and has two dots on either side of the line representing F.

Pitch names cycle through the first 7 letters of the alphabet. Starting at an A on the staff, notice that the pitches ascend up the staff to G. The 8th pitch is A again and the interval between it and the starting A pitch is called an octave.

The lines above and below the clef are called ledger lines. They show how many lines and spaces a note is a away from the staff.  The first ledger line below the treble clef is C. It represents the same pitch as the first ledger line above the bass clef. Since it is midway between the bass and treble clefs, it is called Middle C.

Mnemonics can help you remember the pitches associated with the lines and spaces. In the treble clef, the pitches associated with the spaces spell FACE. The traditional mnemonic for the lines is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. But any sequence of words that sticks in your memory will work, like “Even Gas Barbeques Drip Fat” for example.

Mnemonics for the bass clef are “All Cows Eat Grass” for the spaces, and “Good Boys Do Fine Always” for the lines.

Another often-used clef is the octave treble clef. It has an “8” below the treble clef symbol to indicate that the notes on the staff are played or sung an octave lower than written. A part with many notes between the bass and treble clefs is much easier to read when written on an octave treble clef.

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