Home / Music / Reading Music the Treble Clef

Reading Music the Treble Clef

Music would be very difficult to read without the lines of the grand staff (grand stave) to organize the notes and rhythms.  The upper part of the grand staff is most usually occupied by the treble clef symbol, which designates that the music written is based on notes in the treble staff.  It is important to understand the differences between this symbol and its fellow alto and bass clef symbols so that you do not misread the notes on the page.

Features of the treble clef

The treble clef shows that the music written is of a higher pitch.  The treble staff covers notes from middle ledger line C5 to the upper ledger line C6.  These notes are higher than their bass and alto clef counterparts.  The treble clef is built of five lines and four spaces.  Notes are placed on these lines and spaces to determine the pitch of the note.  Notes that are placed higher on the musical staff have a higher pitch than notes placed lower on the musical staff.

How to read notes on the treble staff

When learning to read notes on the treble staff, many beginning musicians learn acronyms to help them remember the placement off the notes on the staff.  The note order for notes that are placed on the five lines of the musical staff is as follows: E, G, B, D, F.  Some beginning students will remember the note order by saying, “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”

The spaces are simpler to remember.  Note order for those notes that appear inside the four spaces is: F, A, C, E.  This note order looks like the word, “FACE.”  If you use these techniques, remembering the correct placement of notes can be simple.  If you are ever confused about note order, then remember that the bottom line note is “E” and that the notes go alphabetically up to “G” as they rise on the staff.  Then, after “G”, the notes start over again with the letter “A.”

Instruments and voices that use the treble staff

It is important to remember that not all instrumentalists and vocalists will see the treble clef on their page.  The violin, guitar, trumpet, flute, oboe, clarinet, and saxophone are all common examples of instruments that use the treble clef.  Piano and organ also use the treble clef, usually played using the right hand, in addition to the bass clef.  Other instruments that create a lower sound, like the trombone, tuba, viola, cello, and bassoon, will not use the treble clef at all.

Vocalists who most often see the treble staff are the women’s voices of alto and soprano.  Some tenor parts are written in treble clef, but most tenors sing with the basses in the bass clef.

Ledger lines

Other notes can be added to the treble staff using ledger lines.  Notes below the treble staff on ledger lines can be interchanged with notes of the bass clef.  Ledger lines are often seen on instruments where the range capabilities of an instrumentalist surpass the range of the treble staff.  Ledger line notes can be determined individually and their positions memorized by naming each note in alphabetical order.

Even if your instrument does not use the treble clef in its music, you should still learn how to read notes on the treble staff.  Learning to read the treble staff can improve your musical capabilities overall.  Do not fret if reading the treble staff does not come naturally to you.  Reading music only takes some practice.  Before long, you will be able to read the notes on the staff without using rhymes or acronyms at all.