music guide

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The main types of clefs you'll see in singing are the treble clef and the bass clef - so what are the points of these?

treble clef bass clef

Let us have a look at Baa Baa Black Sheep

Baa Baa Black Sheep

This is how we all recognise the piece (with the treble clef) but if you think about a woman and a man singing the same piece - they do not sing at the same pitch (usually). The man will sing an octave down and so is not singing the notes written. What he is singing is:

Baa Baa Black Sheep as a man would sing it

If we wrote the parts that the men sing in this format things would be very difficult for them - they would spend all of their time counting the number of lines below the staff so the music will have finished before they've worked past the first bar!

What we need is a way of writing the music for the men (or for instruments which work at a low pitch) so that music written for them is actually (mostly) on the staff so that they can read it easily. Enter the bass clef!

Baa Baa Black Sheep written in the bass clef

This is the same piece of music but written an octave lower and in the bass clef - see how now the notes mainly lay on the staff rather than way below it. This makes things a lot easier to read. Incidentally, if we wrote the womens' part (ie an octave higher) on the bass clef we would end up with:

Baa Baa
                  Black Sheep written in the bass clef as sung by a

... which would be equally difficult for the women to read.

So how do the clefs relate to each other?

How the treble and bass clefs relate to each

The key to the clefs is "middle C" - this parts the clefs (see 1) so that the note on the "ledger line" below the staff in the treble clef (see 2) is the same note as the note on the ledger line above the staff in the bass clef (see 3).

Tenor Clef

tenor clefAnothr clef you'll see a lot in singing is the Tenor Clef. This is much easier than the bass clef as it it the same notes as you find in the treble clef but you sing them an octave lower - you can see this by the little number 8 hanging off the bottom of the clef. This clef is used for the tenors as they can often find themselves counting a lot of ledger lines above the bass cleff and a lot of ledger lines below the treble clef.


These are not the only clefs you see in music - there are many others but I'm not going to try and cover them here