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Learning To Sight Sing, Lesson 2: Letter Names Of Notes

is a web based music fundamentals and ear training site. material is free. Learning to Sight Sing is a multi-lesson program.


Letter Names on the Treble and Bass Clefs

The last lesson was on line notes and space notes, which alternate to ascend a staff. This allows the notes to show pitch. We identify these pitches using alphabet letter names, A through G, and place those on the staff according to the clef. The two most common clefs in use today are the treble clef, for higher notes, and the bass clef, for lower notes.

We’ll start with the bass clef. It originated by putting an F on the staff to show where F is. The two lines that make the top part of the F would be placed on either side of the line that is F. Today, it’s the two dots on the bass clef. From that line, we can find all the other notes. To go one note higher than G, we don’t go to H. Instead, we go to A because it’s the same note as the A below. These are called different octaves of the same note. The treble clef, used for higher notes, originated by placing a G on the staff—with the curly circle around the line G. As with the bass clef, once you know one note, you can find the rest. Remember, one note higher than G is A. Then, alternating lines and spaces, you can go up or down to find the alphabet letters of the notes.

A skilled musician immediately knows the alphabet letter of any note that they see. As you build to become such a skilled musician, it helps to have a couple shortcuts in your back pocket.

Here’s some mnemonic devices:
The spaces of the treble clef spell ‘face’—f, a, c, e.
The spaces of the bass clef spell ‘Ace G’, or you might prefer ‘All Cows Eat Grass’.

For the treble clef lines, you might know one of many mnemonic devices:
‘Elephants Go Back Doing Flips’ is my favorite.
The one I grew up with was ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’.

For the bass clef lines, use ‘Get Back Down Fine Animal’ to accompany the elephants.
The one I grew up with for bass clef lines was ‘Good Boys Do Fine Always’.

I think if you know the spaces, that’s a great place to be to get quick at finding what the lines are between the spaces.

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