Music Theory – L1 Lesson 1

The first thing a student must tackle when learning music theory is developing an ability to read music. A detailed description of the development of music notation is beyond the scope of this course and some inconsistencies (which will appear in italics) have stayed in musical notation, in the course of that development. For the beginner these inconsistencies can be confusing but inconsistent as it may be, music notation does have a standard for expressing itself visually and by understanding this system the world of western music is open to you.

Treble Clef

Example 2 shows a series of lines and spaces which are employed to create a visual representation of sound. Each line and space corresponds to a pitch. Each pitch is given a name A, B, C, D,

E, F, or G.  A clef sign is also used to designate what names each line and space will receive. The reason for the many types of clefs will be explained momentarily. First let us look at the treble clef.

The treble clef places the note sequence in the order listed below. This complete system of lines and spaces with a clef sign is called a staff.

As can be seen in Example 2, each line and space corresponds to a different tone. When a student is first learning the notes on the staff there are a few ways to help memorize this information. First is to think of the 5 lines as:
and the spaces spell the word FACE. Using these two ways of memorizing the notes on the staff is very useful.

Ledger Lines

If you want to have pitches higher or lower than the 5 lines and four spaces you can extend the staff by using ledger lines. Ledger lines give you the ability to represent higher and lower pitches by extending the staff; these extended pitches are called ledger line notes. (See Example 3)


Using Other Clefs

If we extend this idea we run into trouble as can be seen in Example 4. When excessive ledger lines are used, reading music becomes very difficult. TO alleviate this problem Other clefs are employed to make reading these notes that are out of the treble clefs range easier. The note in Example 4 would be found in the bass or F clef on the 2nd space. (See Example 5)

Example 6 shows where the notes fall in the bass clef. We will only use the treble clef in this book but a basic understanding of the bass clef is important.



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