Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
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depending on the instrument being played. The score we describe is a standard piano or
keyboard score.
A piano score consists of two staffs, each of which consists of five horizontal lines. The
staffs are drawn one above the other. The top staff is called the treble clef, representing the
notes that are played by the right hand. The symbol for the treble clef is placed at the far left of
the top staff. (The word “clef” is French for “key.”) The bottom staff is the bass clef,
representing what is played with the left hand. The symbol for the bass clef is placed at the far
left of the bottom staff. A blank score with no notes on it is pictured in Figure 3.10.
Figure 3.10 Treble and bass clef staffs
Each line and space on the treble and bass clef staffs corresponds to a note on the
keyboard to be played, as shown in Figure 3.11 and Figure 3.12. A whole note (defined below) is
indicated by an oval like those shown. The letter for the corresponding note is given in the
figures. The letters are ordinarily not shown on a musical score. We have them here for
information only. The treble clef is sometimes called the G clef because its bottom portion curls
around the line on the staff corresponding to the note G. The bass clef is sometimes called the F
clef because it curls around the line on the staff corresponding to the note F.
Figure 3.11 Notes on the treble clef staff
Figure 3.12 Notes on the bass clef staff
It’s possible to place a note below or above one of the staffs. The note’s distance from
the staff indicates what note it is. If it’s a note that would fall on a line, a small line is placed
through it, and if the note would fall on a space, a line is placed under or over it. The lines
between the staff and the upper or lower note are displayed by a short line, also. The short lines
that are used to extend the staff are called ledger lines. Examples of notes with ledger lines are
shown in Figure 3.13 and Figure 3.14.
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