Music Clefs

There are lots of different music clefs in music theory, such as Soprano clef, Mezzo-Soprano clef, Subbass clef, etc. But we are here to discuss the four main music clefs, which are Treble, Alto, Tenor and Bass clef, which are common in SATB writing, either in open score or closed score. 

The open score simply just separates every voice part to Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass into each individual part, whereas the closed score is to combine Soprano and Alto, Tenor and Bass into only two staves (Treble and Bass Clef). 

1st excerpt from Bach’s 371 Chorale (Close Score)

1st excerpt from Bach’s 371 Chorale (Open Score)

If you pay attention to the tenor clef, there is an “8” sign below the treble clef, it means anything written on that stave has to be lower down an octave.

Why there are so many clefs?

The reason for having clefs is to avoid reading so many ledger lines for the players. Another reason will be ranges for different instruments.

Imagine a pianist only needs to know how to read one clef, and the ranges for piano are extremely wide, then the pianist requires a longer time to read the notes as he/she plays the piano, therefore the performance will definitely be affected. 

Tips to improve your reading

Thinking of a funny sentence for you to recognize and remember the notes might be a thing that you can consider to speed up your note recognition. 

Treble Clef
  1. Every Good Boy Does Fine
  2. Every Girl Buy Dozen Flowers
  1. FACE
  2. Fat Animals Can’t Escape
Alto Clef

1. Fat Animals Cannot Eat Grapes

1. Good Bird Doesn’t Fly

Tenor Clef

1. Dead Fish Always Cannot Eat

1. Each Good Boy Dance

Bass Clef
  1. Good Boy Does Fine Always
  2. Good Baby Doesn’t Fight Always
  1. All Cow Eat Grass
  2. All Cat Eat Grapes

Once you are familiar with these notes on the 5 staves, then your process of recognizing other notes will be much easier. Hope this helps! 

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