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Master the skills of the treble clef

Treble clef

Learning to read notes on the treble clef staff is one of the most important skills for a pianist to master. Treble clef, also known as G clef, is primarily used to notate melodies and chords that are intended to be played with the right hand. Think of the treble clef staff as a sort of musical compass that helps us orient ourselves on the musical staff. Without a treble clef, we would have a difficult time reading the notes in the octaves above middle C on the piano.
In this article, we will learn all the secrets of the glorious notes on the treble clef including why we use it, how we use it, and what we can learn from it. Learning to use the treble clef notes is quite simple once you get a feel for it.

What is the treble clef?

The treble clef is a tool musicians use to notate pitches above middle C on the piano. The treble clef is also known as G clef because it describes the location of G, specifically the G above middle C, or G4

We learn treble clef so we know how to read sheet music faster and easier.

What does treble clef look like?

Treble clef resembles a Gothic letter ‘G’. It is drawn around the second line of the staff. It looks like this:

treble clef

The combination of the curve around the second line followed by the vertical line crossing through marks the second line as ‘G’.

The best ways to write and read treble clef

There are a few different techniques for learning how to read treble clef notes. The easiest way to memorize the treble clef note names is by using a mnemonic device. Mnemonic devices are a helpful tool to use for memorizing and simplifying a wide range of complex ideas.

We know that the treble clef marks G on the staff, so let’s start there:

Each movement up or down on the staff results in one letter change in either direction. So if we move up from the second line on the staff to the second space, we find the note ‘A’. If we move up from ‘A’ on the second space to the third line, we find the note ‘B’. If we move up from ‘B’ on the third line to the fourth space, we find the note ‘C’. And so on and so forth. 

You can continue this sequence of events for yourself on some staff paper if you wish. Check out these diagrams below to check your understanding of how to read treble clef. First, here are the notes on the lines of treble clef:

how to read treble clef

The notes on the lines of treble clef are: E – G – B – D – F. You can use the mnemonic Every Good Bird Does Fly, Every Good Boy Does Fine, Eating Green Bananas Disgusts Friends, or get creative and come up with your own! The trick is to find a mnemonic memorable enough that you never forget the treble clef note names.

Now let’s dive into the spaces of treble clef staff. We discovered two of the treble clef notes on staff earlier: ‘A’ on the second space and ‘C’ on the third space. We can also use our outstanding powers of logic to deduce the rest of the treble clef note names. Which letter is between ‘E’ on the first line and ‘G’ on the third line? The answer … ‘F’ is on the first space between ‘E’ and ‘G’. Which letter is after ‘D’ in the alphabet? The answer … ‘E’ is after ‘D’ in the alphabet, meaning that ‘E’ is the note on the fourth and top space of the treble clef. Check out this diagram below of the notes on the spaces:

The notes on the spaces of treble clef are F – A – C – E. You can use the mnemonic FACE to remember these notes. Space is FACE – you will never forget!

How to teach treble clef note names

Lines and spaces for treble clef notes

Now that you know all the treble clef notes on staff and are prepared with a few mnemonic tools to decipher the puzzle, let’s put our new found skills to work with a little practice.

Check out this example first:

treble clef note names

Is this piano note on a line or on a space? This note is on a line, so we will use the mnemonic for the lines. Start from the bottom and count up, Every Good, the note is on the second line, so it is ‘G’. Make sense? Let’s try another one. Check out this example:

This note is on a line again, so let’s use our mnemonic for the lines. Start from the bottom and count up Every, Good, Bird, Does, the note is on the fourth line, so it is called ‘D’. Simple, right? Let’s try a few more. Take a look at this example here:

This note is on a space, so we will use FACE to decipher it. Count from the bottom up, F, the note is on the first space, so it is ‘F’. Not too complex! Let’s try one more:

Again, we will use the FACE mnemonic for the spaces. Counting from the bottom up, we find F, A, C, E. The note is on the fourth space, so it is ‘E’. Great work!

What instruments use the treble clef?

Many wonderful instruments read the treble clef notes on staff. As we learned earlier, most of the right hand melodies on the piano are notated in treble clef. Here is an example:

learn treble clef

Here you can see the melody notated in treble clef and some chords notated in bass clef notes, which is another clef commonly used to notate pitches below middle C. In this example, the melody would be performed with the right hand and the chords in the left hand.

Other instruments notated in treble clef include the acoustic and electric guitars, many woodwind instruments like the flute, saxophone, clarinet, and oboe, many brass instruments like trumpet and french horn, as well as harp and the violin. Learning to read treble clef quickly will help you in myriad ways and will only increase your understanding and depth of musical knowledge!

Conclusion

Treble clef is a useful tool for reading and writing music. The treble clef primarily deals with the pitches above middle ‘C’, but we can use ledger lines to access pitches about one octave below middle ‘C’ as well. We also call treble clef ‘G’ clef because it locates the pitch ‘G’4 on the second line of the staff. The more you learn treble clef, the greater your understanding of music will become! Online lessons with Skoove can help you to learn treble clef faster and easier!

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Author of this blog post

Edward Bond

Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.

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