Music 04 – Musical Staff

Music 04 – Musical Staff

In music, there must be a way to differentiate proper pitch, timing, and emotion of the music.  How might one do that?  The Musical staff!  In western music, even the basic skilled musician can take a peek at a piece of music notation, and understand the direction that the song is heading.  To the untrained eye, it can seem very intimidating.  Keep hope though!  It is not too difficult to learn.

Grand Staff

The main thing you will notice with general musical notation, is that it is in the form you see above.  This is what we call the Grand Staff.

We can break this down into 2 main portions, though, with the notation at the beginning.  Here we see the Treble clef(top) and Bass clef(bottom).  Together, they let the musician know the relative pitch of the notes represented.

If you notice, each has 5 lines and 4 spaces associated with it.  Notes are placed within these markers, below, and above.  This signifies, whether up or down, the specific pitch of the note.  The treble clef signifies most everything to be played with the right hand, and everything above Middle C.  The bass clef, in contrast, signifies everything to be played with the left hand, and everything below Middle C.  All notes are placed either on a line, or a space to signify it’s pitch.

You may be asking yourself what I might mean by “Middle C”?  Notes are represented, and named, after letters in the alphabet.  As mentioned in a prior lesson, there are 7 core notes in western music.  Each core note can go sharp, or flat based upon additional notation.  Our core notes are: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.  Each have a different tonal quality to them, and evoke different emotions and moods in a song when put together in specific combinations.  More on this later.

With only 7 notes, it would seem (at face value), that music would sound very limited, and that there wouldn’t be much we could do with it!  Luckily, this is not the case.  The “staff” also represents which octave that a note is in.  This is represented (in non musical notation) by a number after the letter.  Middle C is in the 4th octave and would be addressed otherwise as C4.

Now, both the bass and treble clef have a commonly used notation for middle C, it is generally also the only note that is represented on both sides of the staff.  You may notice in the above picture, that it is located neither in a space or on a line.  If a note is to go outside the preset bounds drawn as the staff, the composer or author of the piece will write in additional lines, but only along with the note that is being written outside the bounds.

Now, we know that going up and down the staff vertically represents pitch.  But what about horizontally?  Make sure to check out the lesson next week as we build more on our music staff and its purpose! 

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