Pitch Notation

The pitch and duration of musical sounds are written (notated) on a group of five lines and four spaces called a staff. A set of symbols called notes is used to indicate both pitch and duration. The term pitch refers to the highness or lowness of a sound. The term duration refers to the length of time a sound is produced.

The most basic note is an oval (whole note).

Pitches are given names which consist of the first seven letters of the alphabet.

The lines and spaces of the staff are assigned letter names by placing a clef at the beginning of the staff. Three clefs are commonly used. They are the treble clef, bass clef, and c (movable) clef.

Treble Clef Bass Clef C or Movable Clef

Treble Clef

The treble clef assigns the pitch name "G" to the third line of the staff. The treble clef is sometimes called the "G clef." The other lines and spaces are assigned names in alphabetical order both up and down from the assigned "G". Moving up on the staff indicates a sound higher in pitch while moving down on the staff indicates a sound lower in pitch. The names repeat after every seventh name. Move the cursor over the staff below to see the pitch names of each line and space on the treble staff. Pay close attention to the pitch (highness or lowness) of each note, the note name, and its position on the staff. With practice and study you should be able to develop the ability to hear the pitch of each note before it is played.


Musicians who read music memorize the names of the lines and spaces.

Pitches which extend above or below the staff are notated through the use of extra lines called ledger lines. Move the cursor over the notes below to see the names of the pitches when ledger lines in the treble clef are used. Be sure to associate the pitch heard to the note on the staff. The note "C" below the treble staff is also known as middle C. Middle C is the C near the middle of the keyboard on a pinao.


Bass Clef

The bass clef assigns the pitch name "F" to the fourth line of the staff. The bass clef is sometimes called the "F clef." The other lines and spaces are assigned names in alphabetical order both up and down from the assigned "F". Moving up on the staff indicates a sound higher in pitch while moving down on the staff indicates a sound lower in pitch. The names repeat after every seventh name. Move the cursor over the staff below to see the pitch names of each line and space on the bass staff. Listen to each pitch and associate the pitch to its respective note on the staff.


Memorize the names of the lines and spaces.

Move the cursor over the notes below to see the names of the notes when ledger lines are used on the bass clef. The note "C" above the bass staff is also known as middle C.


Grand Staff

The treble and bass staff can be combined into a great or grand staff. Notice that middle C lies between both staffs and can be notated close to either staff.


Movable C clef

The C clef assigns the pitch name "C" to the line which is at the center of the clef sign. When the center of the clef is on the middle line it is called the alto clef. When the center of the clef is on the fourth line it is called the tenor clef. Notes on the alto clef are shown below. Move the cursor over the staff below to see the pitch names of each line and space on the alto staff. The middle line on the C clef is also known as middle C.


Memorize the names of the lines and spaces.

Move the cursor over the notes below to see the names of the notes when ledger lines are used on the alto clef.