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Notes are written on a set of five horizontal lines known as ‘the staff’ (or ‘the stave’):
Musical notes will be written out through the 5 lines:
As well as in the 4 spaces between the lines:
Obviously, notes that sound higher are placed higher on the staff and notes that sound lower are placed lower. Notes that are sounded together are written on top of each other on one staff:
The Treble and the Bass Clefs
The human ear can hear a very wide range of sound – from the very low notes to the very high notes. The standard piano alone has 88 keys available! How can so many notes fit in a system of just 5 lines and 4 spaces?
The answer is in what is known as Clefs. These are symbols that indicate exactly which specific range of notes will be represented on the staff. There have been various different clefs throughout history but the most commonly used today are two: the bass clef for low notes and the treble clef for higher notes.
The treble clef is this symbol shown here:
And with it in place (at the very beginning of the staff), the notes on the lines become named so. Observe how the notes move up in step-by-step from line to space to line to space and so on.
The bass clef is used for lower notes. The symbol for the bass clef is this:
And with it in place, the notes on the staff are:
Although the 5 lines and 4 spaces of the staff are already quite efficient at representing tones visually, we do also have a means of representing higher or lower notes than the staff would normally allow. We do so simply by adding lines, as they are needed, either on top of the staff for notes that go higher:
Or below, for notes that go lower:
These extra lines are called Ledger Lines (also spelled Leger). Just like the staff, notes can be placed through the ledger lines themselves:
Or in between the spaces:
Accidentals that belong to notes on ledger lines are no different than normal. They are written to the left of the note and parallel to the note head:
And that’s the end of our crash course! Once you go through the workbook you’ll have a solid foundation to move on to learning music notation and theory. These will give you the fundamentals to write songs, compose music, learn your instrument faster, and anything else you’d like to do in music.