Manual de instrucciones - Pizzicato 3.6 ES290 - Revisión del 20/06/2013

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Using clefs

Los temas cubiertos:


Octaves numbering [Light] [Principiante] [Profesional] [Escritura] [Composición Light] [Composición Pro] [Percusión] [Guitarra] [Coro] [Teclado] [Solista]

As previously explained, a clef is used as a reference mark to write notes on the staff. Until now, we always used the treble clef to locate the notes:

The number to the right of each note name shows the number of the octave. Because there is only 7 different note names, octaves are numbered to differentiate amongst octaves. Remember that an octave is an interval between two notes having the same name and thus comprising 6 other notes between them.

The 8 notes here above cover the extent of an octave. This octave bears number 3. The next octave starts with the C located in the third line space and bears number 4. You can easily write the notes of octave 4 in treble clef (the last C already belongs to octave 5):

Using the bass clef [Light] [Principiante] [Profesional] [Escritura] [Composición Light] [Composición Pro] [Percusión] [Guitarra] [Coro] [Teclado] [Solista]

The bass clef lets you write lower notes covering octaves 1 and 2. Here is the bass clef and the notes of octaves 1 and 2:

With the bass clef and the treble clef, you can already write notes in a 4 octaves range. You may also use additional lines (called ledger lines) to write even lower or higher notes on the staff. Notice that the note order remains always the same, whatever clef is being used.

Open and listen to the Ex022 file. It will give you an idea of the sound extension covered by these 4 octaves:

By observing the staves above, we see that a note placed on a line bears a different name according to the clef at the beginning of the staff. A note placed on the third line is a B note in treble clef and an D note in bass clef. This unfortunately makes the training of note reading a little more difficult, because one needs to be able to read easily the notes in both systems.

The instrument range [Light] [Principiante] [Profesional] [Escritura] [Composición Light] [Composición Pro] [Percusión] [Guitarra] [Coro] [Teclado] [Solista]

The range of an instrument is the extent of notes it can play. The instruments use the clef which is closest to their range, so that the notes are found as much as possible inside the staff. The scores of a bass guitar or a double bass will be written with the bass clef, because the range of these instruments is mainly low. The higher pitch instruments (flute, trumpet…) will be written with the treble clef, which is better adapted to their range.

The keyboard instruments (piano, organ, synthesizer, harpsichord…) cover a rather vast extent and are written on two staves, with the bass and treble clefs. The two staves are connected with a brace indicating that they must be read by the same instrument. Here is an example:

Open the Ex041 file. It represents the same score as the previous example, but it is written using 2 staves:

Generally, notes written in the lower staff will be played by the left hand and notes written in the higher staff by the right hand. It is the most natural, because notes are increasingly high pitched by moving to the right of the keyboard.

Other clefs [Light] [Principiante] [Profesional] [Escritura] [Composición Light] [Composición Pro] [Percusión] [Guitarra] [Coro] [Teclado] [Solista]

When you add a note on a staff line, its name depends on the clef preceding it. We already learned two clefs. As there are 7 different names of notes, it is possible to read the notes on a staff in 7 different ways and there are thus 7 different clefs. Fortunately, the 5 other clefs are used only for specific instruments. By learning the musical keyboard, you will never need them. Here is a summary of the clefs, each with the position of the C 3 note:

All these notes bear the same name and represent the same sound pitch.

The first is the treble clef. It determines the position of the G note on the second line. It is sometimes called G clef second line, to avoid confusing it with the last clef which has the same symbol but which is placed on the first line.

The second clef is bass clef. The F note is placed on the fourth line of the staff, between the 2 dots of the symbol. It is also called F clef fourth line.

The next clef is the F clef third line. It is very rare. The F note is placed on the third line, between the two dots.

The four next clefs are the C clefs. For each one, the C note is placed on the central line of the clef symbol, between the two curves. These clefs are respectively called C clef first line, C clef second line, C clef third line and C clef fourth line, referring to the line of the staff where the C note is placed.

The last key is the G clef first line. It is very rare. The G note is located on the first line. Regarding the note names, it is the same as the F clef fourth line. The only difference is that the notes are placed two octaves higher. For the 7 other clefs, the note names are each time different for each line of the staff. Be aware that in music academies, the advanced students must learn to easily read notes in the 7 clefs!

As notes are always named in the same order and can be written only on a line or in a space between lines, you can deduce the names and pitches of all notes of all clefs starting from this example. On the basis of the C 3 note, here is for example the names and positions of notes written with the C clef third line:

Some percussion instruments do not need to specify the pitch of notes. It is for example the case for the drums.

Each part of the drum kit can be struck to produce a sound, but this sound always remains the same. In such a case, the use of a clef on the staff is not useful. In practice, no clef is drawn or a special symbol is drawn, like this:

The use of staff lines is quite free for the writing of percussion instruments. There are several different systems. Most of the time, you find at the beginning of the score an explanation of the convention used, such as for example:

Notice that different symbols may be used for the note heads, like here a cross representing the cymbal. The number of staff lines may also vary. For a single instrument (orchestra snare drum, bass drum, triangle…), you will often see a one line staff, representing the rhythmic values to play:

Writing conventions [Light] [Principiante] [Profesional] [Escritura] [Composición Light] [Composición Pro] [Percusión] [Guitarra] [Coro] [Teclado] [Solista]

The clef being used must be written at each beginning of a new staff and for all instruments (except possibly the percussion). In the middle of a staff, the clef may change. In this case the new clef is drawn if possible right before a bar line, that is to say right in front of the first note which is affected by the clef. In both cases, it is drawn a little smaller than its normal size. Here is an example:

When a clef change occurs at the beginning of a staff, it is usual to draw the new clef right at the end of the previous staff, so that the performer is not surprised when jumping to the next staff:


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