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Victoria Williams

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1. The Staff and Notes

Grade 1 Music Theory - Lesson 1: The Music Staff and Notes

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 

Staff Notation in Music

Music is written down in a number of different ways around the world. In the West, most instruments use a method called staff notation.

The music staff, or stave, is made up of 5 horizontal lines:

stave

On the music staff, notes are placed on the lines:

Notes are placed on lines - music theory

 

and in the spaces:

Notes are placed in spaces - music theory

 

Notes can have black or white heads. (See Lesson 4 - Time Names of Notes for more on this.)

 

The Treble Clef

We always put a clef at the beginning of the music staff. A clef is a symbol which identifies one note by name. We can work out all the other notes from this one.

The most common clef is the treble clef, which looks like this:

Treble clef - music theory

The treble clef tells us where on the music staff we should write the note G. We draw the treble clef so that the curly bit in the middle forms a sort of circle around one line on the staff- a note written on this line is a G.

Treble clef with G - music theory

 

Sometimes it’s called the G clef because of this.

Now we know where the note G is, we can work out all the other positions of notes on the staff.

 

Letter Names

In music theory, we use the letter names A-G (always written in capital letters) to identify notes.

After G, the next note is A, (because we start the sequence again).

G is on a line on the music staff, so the next note up, A, is in a space:

Treble clef with G and A - music theory

 

The next note up is B, which is on a line

Treble Clef with G, A and B - music theory

Here are all the lines and spaces of the music staff filled up:

Treble clef - all the notes - music theory

 

You can try to remember the letter names of the notes on lines by learning

Every Good Boy Deserves Football

every good boy deserves football - music theory

 

And you can learn the notes in the spaces by memorising

D – FACE – G

d-face-g  - music theory bass clef notes

 

or you can make up your own silly sentences to help you remember!

Piano keyboard showing middle C near keyhole - music theory

 

The note which comes before the first D in this series is called middle C.

On a piano keyboard, it’s the C nearest the keyhole.

Middle C is written under the stave, with a short line through the note - you can think of this line as an extension of the stave. The short line is called a ledger line.

middle-c

 

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