A Complete Guide To Musical Clefs

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Clefs are a type of musical symbol we use at the beginning of a stave to indicate to musicians what pitch of notes to play.

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is one of the most common types of clef used to indicate the pitch of notes.

Here we have the treble clef which is also known as the G clef

The treble clef

It’s called the G clef because it loops and wraps itself around the note G on the stave.

The note G on the treble clef

We’ll cover how to then work out all the other notes of the musical alphabet shortly but let’s cover how to draw a treble clef first.

How to draw a treb​​​​​le clef

To draw a treble clef you have to find the second line from the bottom of the stave to start.

Here’s a video from Essential Music Theory to explain where to start.

How to draw a treble clef


Which instruments use the treble clef to read music?

Lots of instruments use the treble clef when playing but it tends to be instruments that have a higher register.

Instruments like:

  • Trumpets 
  • Clarinets
  • Flutes
  • Violins
  • The right hand of the piano
  • And lots of others


What are the notes on the treble clef?

Because we know that the treble clef wraps itself around the note G, we can then work out what all the different notes are on the stave.

Going up from G we have all these notes:

Treble clef note names

And going down from G we have these notes:

Treble clef note names


How to learn the letter names of the notes on the lines

To help you memorise these notes it’s common to learn them by remembering the notes on the lines and in the spaces separately.

For the notes on the lines I used the phrase:

Every Good Boy Deserves Football.

Every Good Boy Deserves Football

There are lots of other phrases you can use too like:

Every Green Bus Drives Fast.

Or,

Elephants GBouncing Down Freeways.

It makes it a little easier to remember the notes but you could come up with your own if you prefer.

How to learn the letter names of the notes in the spaces

Next, we have the notes in the spaces:

FACE

Thankfully these notes spell out a very easy to remember word:

F A C E

You shouldn’t have too much difficulty memorising these ones.

Treble clef notes quiz and flashcards

Below we’ve got a quick quiz to test yourself on how well you know all the notes in the treble clef. 

How did you do?

If you need a bit more practice then you could use some treble clef flashcards that you can print out.

Try these ones from Opus Music or these from Teachers Pay Teachers (they’re also free but you’ll have to sign up for an account).

The treble clef is just one of a few other types of clefs.

Next, we’re going to look at the bass clef which is a type of clef used by instruments with a lower pitch.

The Bass Clef

Now we’re going to be looking at another clef called bass Clef is and the letter names of the notes in the bass clef.

How to draw a bass clef

Here we have the bass clef which is also known as the F clef.

The bass clef

Here’s a video explaining how to draw it.

How to draw a bass clef

Don’t forget the two little dots either side of the 2nd line of the stave.

It’s called the F clef because it loops and wraps itself around the note F on the stave.

The note F on the bass clef

What instruments use the bass clef?

The sort of instruments that use the bass clef have a lower register.

Instruments like:

  • Double basses 
  • Tubas
  • Bassoons
  • The left hand of the piano

Now that we know where F is, we can use the musical alphabet to work out the rest of the notes. 

What are the notes on the bass clef?

Going up from F we have the following notes:

Bass clef note names

And going down from F we have these notes:

Bass clef note names

Learning the notes on the lines of the bass clef

To help you memorise and learn these notes we can split them up into the lines and the spaces like we did with the treble clef.

For the notes on the lines we can use the phrase:

Great Britain Doesn’t Fight America

Great Britain Doesn’t Fight America

Or if you prefer you could use:

Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always 

Or

Great Big Dogs Frighten Auntie

Learning the notes in the spaces of the bass clef

And lastly, for the notes in the spaces I use the phrase:

All Cows Eat Grass

All Cows Eat Grass

The Alto Clef

Next, we’re going to take a look at another type of clef called the Alto clef.

How to draw an alto clef

The Alto Clef looks like a capital letter B and sits right in the middle of the stave as shown below.

The alto clef

Although it looks like an uppercase letter B, it’s actually what we call a C clef because the middle of the arches show us where middle C is on the stave.

Middle C on the alto clef

What instruments use the alto clef?

The only instrument that still uses the alto clef is the viola. It’s sometimes called the viola clef as a result!

Alto clef notes

Here are all the letter names of the notes in the alto clef:

Notes in the alto clef

Here’s a video from Music Matters going over how to read notes in the alto clef:

Music Matters – Reading the alto clef

Next, I’ll be covering the tenor clef and I’ll also write about reading guitar tab and percussion too. Check back soon for an update!

Or to carry on learning music theory read our other posts here.

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