What is a clef?

Discover the different clefs used in music.

A clef in music
Published: July 4, 2022 at 7:58 pm

On a musical score, the start of each stave (or staff) will feature a symbol known as a clef. These symbols indicate the pitch and range of the notes featured on the stave. For example, a treble clef indicates the notes are suitable for soprano and alto instruments and vocalists, while a bass clef indicates the notes are suitable for tenor and bass.

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What are the different clefs?

To put it another way, when playing the piano, notes on a treble clef stave would usually be played with the right hand, while notes on the bass clef would usually be played with the left hand.

The treble clef looks like an elaborate G and it is also known as the G clef, as it wraps itself around the second line up on the stave, which is the line that represents the G above middle C on the treble clef stave.

The bass clef is also known as the F clef – its symbol (which resembles the letter F) starts on the second line down on the stave, which represents the F below middle C on the bass clef stave.

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There is another clef known as the C clef, however, this is only used by a few instruments, such as the viola. There are two versions of this clef – the alto C clef and the tenor C clef. The former depicts middle C as the middle line on the stave, while the latter depicts middle C as the second line down on the stave.

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