Clefs, Note Names, Accidentals


The names of lines and spaces on the staff are determined by a clef symbol.  Most instruments use the Treble or Bass clef.  Together, they are called the Grand Staff, which is typically used in piano and vocal music.  The common exceptions are the Alto and Tenor clefs, which show where  “Middle C” on a keyboard is located.  The viola uses the Alto clef consistently.  In cases where bass instruments such as the cello, trombone, and bassoon are employed in their upper register, the Tenor clef is used to avoid ledger lines.  These are the small horizontal lines found above and below a clef to extend the range.

Note Names

Notes can be placed on any line or space of the staff, or on ledger lines above and below.  It is essential to immediately identify any note on the staff in order to read music in real time.  It takes some practice, just like memorizing the multiplication tables.  This is the first step towards reading music.  Some  students learn the names of the lines and spaces on the staff by learning a simple phrase in which each word begins with the letter name of the lines and spaces from the bottom to the top.


Treble clef lines: Every Good Boy Does Fine,  E-G-B-D-F

Treble clef spaces: The word FACE, F-A-C-E

Bass clef lines: Good Boys Do Fine Always,  G-B-D-F-A

Bass clef spaces: All Cows Eat Grass,  A-C-E-G

Alto clef lines: Fine Angus Cows Eat Grass,  F-A-C-E-G

Alto clef spaces: Good Boys Do Fine,  G-B-D-F

Tenor clef lines: DeFACED-F-A-C-E

Tenor clef spaces: Every Good Boy Dances, E-G-B-D


These are symbols placed to the left of a note on the same line or space.  They are used to chromatically alter a pitch.  A sharp raises the note a half step, while a flat lowers it a half step.  Double sharps and double flats raise or lower a note by two half steps.  A natural sign removes any sharps or flats from the key signature, or from an alteration earlier in the measure.  Conventionally, if an accidental is used in a measure it is applied to subsequent occurrences of the altered note, and the bar line cancels the alteration.

Music Courseware Activities

Visitors – Select the Activity Written: Note Naming

Students – Take a test or quiz assigned by your instructor.

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