Room 99--Staffs and key signatures

This section of the Classroom will inform you about how to recognizes pitches in a musical score. Follow the diagram above as you read the text. A musical staff is made up of five lines. The lines AND spaces correspond to pitches, depending on which clef is being used. The clefs most often used are shown in the first three measures above. The first clef is the treble or G clef. See how the clef seems to wind around the second line from the bottom. Thatís the line where the pitch G is found. The two rows of letter on the left show first the pitches for the five lines of the staff. Then the pitches for the spaces are shown. The memory aid for remembering the lines is (reading from bottom to top) Every Good Boy Does Fine. For the spaces it is simplerójust the word FACE.

The second clef is the bass clef or F clef. The two dots surround the line that corresponds to the pitch F. Below are the letters for the lines and spaces of the bass clef. To remember these pitches, itís a variant of the aid for the treble clef, Good Boys Do Fine Always. For the spaces, it is All Cars Eat Gas.

The third clef is the Alto Clef, normally used by the viola. The center line which the clef surrounds is the pitch C. The letters for the lines and spaces in the alto clef are shown below the staff.

Now, where is the pitch Middle C on the treble clef? It would be on a line that is placed BELOW the staff (called a ledger line). Where is the pitch Middle C on the bass clef? It would be on a ledger line placed ABOVE the staff. Thus, if the treble clef were on a staff above a staff with the bass clef (as most piano music is printed, there are 5 pitches that separate the two staffs (B-flat,B-natural, C, C-sharp, and D). Weíll get into pitches in another room.

There are 24 key signatures that can be used in music. The key signature appears on the staff lines just to the right of each clef. Usually the clefs appear on the left side of the staff (or group of staves bracketed together, called a ďsystem.Ē) Each key signature stands for both a MAJOR and MINOR key. We will also talk about those differences later. Basically you only have to remember three key signatures. If there are no SHARPS OR FLATS in the key signature, the Major key is C. To find the minor key, merely think down three chromatic (half) steps, so the corresponding minor key is A minor. If there is one FLAT in the key signature, the major key is F. You figure out the corresponding minor key. If there is one SHARP in the key signature (an F-sharp), the major key is G. In the diagram above ignore the natural signs in the signature where the one sharp is. We'll explain that down the road. Just pretend they aren't thereYou figure out the minor key.

Now youíre home free. Once you have two or more flats, just count to the second flat from the right, and thatís the key. If you have 2 flats, the second from the right is B-flat, thatís the key. I there are three, the second is E-flat. Thatís the key. What is four flats? You can go all the way up to seven flats. In keys with sharps, move up one line and whatever the next place is, thatís the MAJOR KEY. So look at the signature for G major. It has 1 sharp on the F-line. Move up one, the Key is G Major. For 2 sharps, one line up from C-sharp is D. Thatís the key. You just have to watch because if the line you are moving up to already has a sharp there because of the key signature. The key is that note ďsharp.Ē There are only two in that category. 6-sharps, the last of which is E-sharp. F is already sharped in the key signature so itís F-sharp. 7 sharps, the last of which is B-sharp. When you move up to C, itís already sharped, so itís C-sharp. Thatís a lot to cover. Weíll get back to it all later. Return to classroom Third floor.

Return to classroom second floor.

Return to classroom first floor..

If you need to leave, Go to initial page of site.

If you are interested in advertising a music-related business in the pages of the classroom, please send us an e-mail regarding rates by clicking here.