Friday, March 4, 2016

Intro to Writing Music: How To Read Music, Day 3!

Welcome to Day 3 of learning “How to Read Music” in order to write your own! The past two days have been preparatory in nature, and now we finally get to explore some actual note reading! Today, I will be going over how to read the Treble Clef notes. Quick tip: take your time with each section, but keep reading as it may make more sense as you go—you can always go back and reread a paragraph. Be sure to look at the image examples carefully, and have fun!

Read Day 1 Here

Read Day 2 Here


Reading the Treble Clef!

All right. Now, there are a few contested methods for teaching students how to read music. Some teachers feel it is best to only give the students about as much information as I have given you up to this point. Simply show the student how the notes, when ascending and alternating between adjacent lines and spaces maintain alphabetical order—as we see in our example of notes rising from Middle C in the Treble Clef.

Notes Ascending Use Alphabetical Order When Moving from Adjacent Lines to Spaces. Seen Above: Middle C (C4), D, E, F  

Thinking about the example above, if these notes continued in the same way, the next line-note after F would be the letter name G, followed by the space-note A, and so on...


Some Examples:

To help make this less abstract, think about this: the notes on the staff correspond exactly to the piano keys. Just like when moving up on the piano (to the right) to adjacent white keys the letter names are in alphabetical order, notes (letter names) moving up the staff to adjacent lines to spaces also appear in that same alphabetical order (compare the following images to see what I mean). 

White keys in a row (left to right) are in alphabetical order!


White keys in a row (right to left) are in reverse alphabetical order!

Notes on the staff, moving up in a row (adjacent lines and spaces), are in alphabetical order: Middle C, D, E, F! 

Notes on the staff, moving down in a row (adjacent lines and spaces), are in reverse alphabetical order: F, E, D, Middle C! 

Simple, right? 

The teacher then has the student simply count the adjacent lines and spaces on the staff, without skipping any, saying the musical alphabet as they do so if they are ascending, or saying the musical alphabet backwards if they are descending, to figure out any note in question.

This is a valid method, but time consuming. It is a method that works well in a kinetic learning environment, particularly in weekly music lesson on an instrument. This blog post, however, is a crash course in music reading, so it seems appropriate to use the shortcut approach with you all.  

I wanted to show you the long way, above, in case you get stuck, but here is the easy method! 

Remember that a staff has five lines and four spaces (see image).

If we consider the lines of staff in the Treble Clef, starting with the lowest "big" line, as we have already seen today, the note E is written on this line. 

E is the third note in the image above on the 
bottom line of the staff in the Treble Clef.  

Here are the letter names of all five lines of the staff in the Treble Clef:



If we use the mnemonic device of an acronym, starting from the bottom and going up the staff, we get the following: 

—F— Fine
—D— Does
—B— Boy
—G— Good  
—E— Every

Easy to remember, right: “Every Good Boy Does Fine!” Always start from the bottom of the staff when using these acronyms!

What about the Treble Clef Spaces? Again we start from the bottom and move up:


We don’t need to use an acronym here, because this, of course, spells the word “FACE!”

Using these two acronyms, we can read any note written in the treble clef.

Here, try reading these notes using these acronyms and see if you get them all right? The answer key will be at the very bottom of this post! 

Recall that I stated that the Treble Clef is also called the “G-Clef?” Well that is because the clef reminds you where the note “G” is in the staff. The symbol is itself an old-style cursive G, and the large swirl on the bottom centers around the line-note “G,” (see image).


Now you can read all the notes of the Treble Clef! If you would like even more practice at reading your Treble Clef notes then check out this free website:

This is the classic version of this site, the newer version is too complex at this point to be useful, but the classic version is perfect!

Thank you so much for reading this article. Day 4, about reading the notes of the Bass Clef, will be posted on Monday! Have a great artistic weekend,


Answer Key Treble Clef Notes: 1. C 2. D 3. G  4. F  5. D  6. E  7. B  8. F 9. A 10. C 11.E   

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