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Encyclopedia > Clef
A clef indicates the name of the notes on one line of the staff, in relation to which the notes of the other lines and spaces may be determined. In this case, the G-clef assigns the note G to the second line.

A clef (from the French for "key", Clé) is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes.[1] Placed on one of the lines at the beginning of the staff, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on that line. This line serves as a reference point by which the names of the notes on any other line or space of the staff may be determined. Look up clef in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm. ...

Contents

The types of clef

There are three types of clef used in modern music notation: F, C, and G. Each type of clef assigns a different reference note to the line on which it is placed.

This clef... is called... and assigns the note... to the line...
the G-clef G above Middle C encircled by the curl of the clef.
the C-clef Middle C that passes through the center of the clef.
the F-clef F below Middle C between the two dots of the clef.

Once one of these clefs has been placed on one of the lines of the staff, the other lines and spaces can be read in relation to it. Image File history File links GClef. ... Image File history File links CClef. ... Image File history File links FClef. ...


The use of three different clefs makes it possible to write music for all instruments and voices, even though they may have very different tessituras (that is, even though some sound much higher or lower than others). This would be difficult to do with only one clef, since the modern staff has only five lines, and the number of pitches that can be represented on the staff, even with ledger lines, is not nearly equal to the number of notes the orchestra can produce. The use of different clefs for different instruments and voices allows each part to be written comfortably on the staff with a minimum of ledger lines. To this end, the G-clef is used for high parts, the C-clef for middle parts, and the F-clef for low parts - with the important exception of transposing parts, which are written at a different pitch than they sound, often even in a different octave. In music, tessitura (Italian: texture) is a range of pitches compared to the instrument for which it was intended to be used. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm. ... Figure 1. ... A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is written at a pitch different from concert pitch. ...


The positions of the clefs

In order to facilitate writing for different tessituras, any of the clefs may theoretically be placed on any of the lines of the staff. The further down on the staff a clef is placed, the higher the tessitura it is for; conversely, the higher up the clef, the lower the tessitura.


Since there are five lines of the staff, and three clefs, it might seem that there would be a total of fifteen possible clefs. Six of these, however, are redundant clefs (for example, a G-clef on the third line would be exactly the same as a C-clef on the first line). That leaves nine possible distinct clefs, all of which have been used historically: the G-clef on the two bottom lines, the F-clef on the three top lines, and the C-clef on any line of the staff except the topmost, earning the name of "movable C-clef". (The C-clef on the topmost line is redundant because it is exactly equivalent to the F-clef on the third line; both ways of writing this clef have been used.)


Each of these clefs has a different name based on the tessitura for which it is best suited.

Nowadays, only four clefs are used regularly: the treble clef, the bass clef, the alto clef, and the tenor clef. Of these, the treble and bass clefs are by far the most common. Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ...

Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ...

Individual clefs

Here follows a complete list of the clefs, along with a list of instruments and voice parts notated with them. Each clef is shown in its proper position on the staff, followed by its reference note.


An obelisk (†) after the name of a clef indicates that that clef is now obsolete. Everyone please stop nitpicking on the use of daggers in theoldnewthing blog! This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Image File history File links GClef. ...

G-clefs



The treble clef

When the G-clef is placed on the second line of the staff, it is called the "treble clef". This is by far the most common clef used today, and the only G-clef still in use. For this reason, the terms G-clef and treble clef are often seen as synonymous. It was formerly also known as the "violin clef." Image File history File links Treble_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is used for the violin, flutes, oboe, English horn, all clarinets, all saxophones, horn, trumpet, guitar, vibraphone, xylophone; for the upper part of keyboard instruments like the piano, organ, harp, and harpsichord (of which the lower part is usually written in the bass clef); for the highest notes played by the cello (the old convention was to write an octave higher, unless preceded by a tenor clef), bassoon, trombone (which otherwise use the bass and tenor clefs), and viola (which otherwise uses the alto clef); and for the soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, and tenor voices. For the Anne Rice novel, see Violin (novel). ... This article pertains to the musical instrument. ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... Cor anglais The cor anglais or English horn is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... Two soprano clarinets: a Bâ™­ clarinet (left, with capped mouthpiece) and an A clarinet (right, with no mouthpiece). ... The saxophone (colloquially referred to as sax) is a conical-bored instrument of the woodwind family. ... For other uses, see Horn. ... Trumpeter redirects here. ... For other uses, see Guitar (disambiguation). ... A typical vibraphone. ... Kulintang a Kayo, a Philippine xylophone The xylophone (from the Greek meaning wooden sound) is a musical instrument in the percussion family which probably originated in Indonesia. ... A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played with a musical keyboard. ... A short grand piano, with the lid up. ... Organ in Katharinenkirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany The organ is a keyboard instrument played using one or more manuals and a pedalboard. ... For other uses, see Harp (disambiguation). ... Harpsichord in the Flemish style A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. ... This article is about the stringed musical instrument. ... The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers and occasionally even higher. ... The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. ... The viola (French, alto; German Bratsche) is a bowed string instrument. ... This article is about the voice-type. ... A mezzo-soprano (meaning medium soprano in Italian) is a female singer with a range usually extending from the A below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C. Mezzo-sopranos generally have a darker (or lower) vocal tone than sopranos, and their vocal range is between that... This article is about the voice-type. ... This article is about Tenor vocalists in music. ...



The French violin clef

When the G-clef is placed on the first line of the staff, it is called the "French clef" or "French violin clef". Image File history File links French_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is no longer used. Formerly, it was used by the flute and violin, especially in parts published in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Image File history File links FClef. ...

F-clefs



The bass clef

When the F-clef is placed on the fourth line, it is called the "bass clef". This is the only F-clef used today, so that the terms "F-clef" and "bass clef" are often regarded as synonymous. Image File history File links Bass_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is used for the cello, double bass, bass guitar, bassoon, contrabassoon, trombone, baritone saxophone, tuba, and timpani; for the lower part of keyboard instruments like the piano, organ, and harpsichord (of which the upper part is usually written in treble clef); and for the lowest notes of the horn; and the baritone and bass voices. This article is about the stringed musical instrument. ... Side and front views of a modern double bass with a French bow. ... A sunburst-colored Precision Bass The electric bass guitar (or electric bass; pronounced , as in base) is a bass stringed instrument played with the fingers (either by plucking, slapping, popping, or tapping) or using a pick. ... The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers and occasionally even higher. ... The contrabassoon, also contrafagotto or double bassoon, is a larger version of the bassoon sounding an octave lower. ... The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. ... The baritone saxophone, often called bari sax (to avoid confusion with the baritone horn, which is often referred to simply as baritone), is one of the larger and lower pitched members of the saxophone family. ... For other uses, see Tuba (disambiguation). ... A timpanist in the United States Air Forces in Europe Band. ... A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played with a musical keyboard. ... A short grand piano, with the lid up. ... Organ in Katharinenkirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany The organ is a keyboard instrument played using one or more manuals and a pedalboard. ... Harpsichord in the Flemish style A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. ... For other uses, see Horn. ... For other uses, see Baritone (disambiguation). ... A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the deepest vocal range of the human voice. ...



The baritone clef

When the F-clef is placed on the third line, it is called the baritone clef. Image File history File links Percussion_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is no longer used. Formerly, it was used to write the baritone part in vocal music.


The subbass clef

When the F-clef is placed on the fifth line, it is called the subbass clef. This is unique among the other F-clefs in that it is the same note arrangement as the treble clef. Image File history File links Subbass_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is no longer used. Formerly, it was used to write low bass parts, e.g. in the works of Heinrich Schütz.
Heinrich Schütz. ...

Image File history File links CClef. ...

C-clefs



The alto clef

When the C-clef is placed on the third line of the staff, it is called the alto clef. Image File history File links Alto_clef_with_note. ...


This clef (sometimes called the viola clef) is currently used for the viola, the viola da gamba, and the alto trombone.[2] Formerly, it was used for the alto voice and by instruments playing a middle part (oboes, recorders, etc.) It occasionally turns up in keyboard music to the present day (Brahms' Organ chorales, John Cage's Dream for piano). The viola (French, alto; German Bratsche) is a bowed string instrument. ... Various Viola da gamba The viol or viola da gamba family of musical instruments is related to the vihuela, rebec, etc. ... There are many different types of trombones. ... This article is about the voice-type. ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... Various recorders The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument of the family known as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes — whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle and ocarina. ... Johannes Brahms Johannes Brahms (May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897) was a German composer of classical music. ... This article or section should be merged with Pipe organ The Casavant pipe organ at Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica, Montreal The organ is a type of keyboard musical instrument, distinctive because the sound is not produced by a percussion action, as on a piano or celesta, or by... A chorale was originally a hymn of the Lutheran church sung by the entire congregation. ... For the Mortal Kombat character, see Johnny Cage. ... A short grand piano, with the lid up. ...


The tenor clef

When the C-clef is placed on the fourth line of the staff, it is called the tenor clef. This article is about Tenor vocalists in music. ... Image File history File links Tenor_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is used for the upper ranges of the bassoon, cello, euphonium, double bass and trombone (which all use the bass clef in their lower and middle ranges, and in their extreme high ranges, the treble clef as well). Formerly, it was used by the tenor part in vocal music. The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers and occasionally even higher. ... This article is about the stringed musical instrument. ... The euphonium is a conical-bore, baritone-voiced brass instrument. ... Side and front views of a modern double bass with a French bow. ... The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. ... This article is about Tenor vocalists in music. ... Vocal music is music performed by one or more singers, with or without non-vocal instrumental accompaniment, in which singing provides the main focus of the piece. ...



The baritone clef

Occasionally in the past, the C-clef was placed on the fifth line, and it is called the baritone-clef, like the baritone F-clef on the third line, to which it is exactly equivalent. Because of this equivalency, it was rarely used in the past; the baritone F-clef was used instead.
Image File history File links Baritone_clef_with_note. ...


The mezzo-soprano clef

When the C-clef is placed on the second line of the staff, it is called the mezzo-soprano clef. Image File history File links Mezzosoprano_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is no longer used. Formerly, it was used in vocal music to write mezzo-soprano parts.


The soprano clef

When the C-clef occurs on the first line of the staff, it is called the soprano clef. Image File history File links Soprano_clef_with_note. ...


This clef is no longer used. Formerly, it was used in vocal music to write soprano parts. The soprano trombone uses this clef too. Although this trombone is seldom used today, some works of J.S. Bach call for it. There are many different types of trombones. ...

Other clefs

Octave clefs

Sometimes a small 8 is attached to a clef to show that an instrument reads an octave above or below concert pitch. This can be usually found in tenor parts in SATB settings, in which there is a G clef with an 8 below it, indicating the pitches are sung an octave below. Starting around 1900 Dawson in Boston led an attempt to popularise a version with a C clef on the 3rd space. Image File history File links Treble_clef_with_transposition. ... This article is about Tenor vocalists in music. ... This article is about choirs, musical ensembles containing singers. ...

Neutral clef

The neutral or percussion clef is not a clef in the same sense that the F, C and G clefs are. It is simply a convention that indicates that the lines and spaces of the staff are each assigned to a percussion instrument with no precise pitch. With the exception of some common drum-kit and marching percussion layouts, the keying of lines and spaces to instruments is not standardized, so a legend or indications above the staff are necessary to indicate what is to be played. Percussion instruments with identifiable pitches do not use the neutral clef, and timpani (notated in bass clef) and mallet percussion (noted in treble clef or on a grand staff) are usually notated on different staves than unpitched percussion. Image File history File links Music-neutralclef. ... Percussion redirects here. ... The term Tuned percussion refers to any number of percussion instruments that are tuned to and played in a particular pitch. ... The Grand Staff using both bass clef on the bottom and treble clef on top allows for four octaves of notation, counting the two high ledger lines for Soprano C and two ledger lines below bass clef for Deep C. It is known as the grand staff because the two...


Staves with a neutral clef do not always have five lines. Commonly, percussion staves only have one line, although other configurations can be used.


The neutral clef is sometimes used when non-percussion instruments play non-pitched extended techniques, such as hitting the body of a violin or cello. Extended technique is a term used to describe unconventional, unorthodox or improper techniques of playing musical instruments or singing. ...


Tablature

For guitars and other plucked instruments it is possible to notate tablature in place of ordinary notes. In this case, a TAB-sign is often written instead of a clef. The number of lines of the staff is not necessarily five: one line is used for each string of the instrument (so, for standard 6-stringed guitars, six lines would be used). Numbers on the lines show on which fret the string should be played. This Tab-sign, like the Percussion clef, is not a clef in the true sense, but rather a symbol employed instead of a clef. tablature File links The following pages link to this file: Tablature Categories: Images with unknown source ... Example of numeric vihuela tablature from the book Orphenica Lyra by Miguel de Fuenllana (1554). ...


History

Gregorian chant clefs: C, F

The clefs developed at the same time as the staff, in the 10th century. Originally, instead of a special clef symbol, the reference line of the staff was simply labeled with the name of the note it was intended to bear: either G, F, or C. These were the 'clefs' used for Gregorian chant. Over time, the shapes of these letters became stylized, eventually resulting in the shapes we have today. Gregorian chant clefs File links The following pages link to this file: Clef ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and time. ...


Two other clefs have been used as well, the D-clef and the Gamma-clef, indicating the notes now represented by the fourth line of the treble clef[citation needed] and the first line of the bass clef, respectively; but these fell out of use.


Several variant shapes of the different clefs persisted until very recent times. The F-clef was until very recently written like this: . Image File history File links created by self using inkscape, based on the file it replaces. ...


The C-clef was formerly written in a more angular way than now, and many people still use this, or a further simplified K-shape, when writing the clef by hand. The flourish at the top of the G-clef probably derives from a cursive S for "sol", the name for "G" in solfege.[3] Sol-fa redirects here. ...

Vocal music can be contracted into two staves, using the treble and bass clefs

C-clefs were formerly used to notate vocal music, a practice which dwindled away during the late 19th century. The soprano voice was written in 1st line C clef (soprano clef), the alto voice in 3rd line C clef (alto clef), the tenor voice in 4th line C clef (tenor clef) and the bass voice in 4th line F clef (bass clef). Screenshot of Lilypond-generated score for Adeste Fideles. ... Screenshot of Lilypond-generated score for Adeste Fideles. ...


In more modern publications, 4 part harmony on parallel staves is usually written more simply as: Harmony is the use and study of pitch simultaneity, and therefore chords, actual or implied, in music. ...

  • S(oprano) = treble clef (2nd line G clef)
  • A(lto) = treble clef
  • T(enor) = treble clef with an "8" below or a double treble clef
  • B(ass) = bass clef (4th F clef)

or is reduced to two staves, one with the treble and one with the bass clef.


Further uses

One more use of the clefs is training in sight reading: the ability to read in any clef is useful for being able to transpose on sight (see sight transposition), although in that case the tessitura implied by the given clef must be ignored. It is then only necessary to use 7 clefs, so that any written note can take any of the 7 different names (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). Students in French and Belgian conservatories and music schools, amongst others, are thoroughly drilled in this kind of exercise and solfeggios meant for use in those institutions are about the only scores where one will find nowadays a 1st line or 2nd line C clef or a 3rd line F clef. For some reason, the 3rd line F clef (the baritone clef) is preferred in the French and Belgian pedagogical tradition to the equivalent 5th line C clef. This may have something to do with the fact that very early medieval scores had only 4 line staffs, hence possibly the avoidance in some particularly traditionalist circles to write a clef on the 5th line, though this is arguably more likely due to the visual impact of the fact that the 3rd line F clef is contained entirely within the staff whilst half of the 5th line C clef protrudes above it. This page may meet Wikipedias criteria for speedy deletion. ... In music and sight singing solfege is a way of assigning syllables to degrees or steps of the diatonic scale. ...


References

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Clef
  • Dandelot, Georges. Manuel pratique pour l'étude des clefs. Revised by Bruno Giner and Armelle Choquard. Eschig 1999.
  • Kidson, Frank. The Evolution of Clef Signatures. In 'The Musical Times', Vol. 49, No. 785 (Jul. 1, 1908), pp. 443-444.
  • Kidson, Frank. The Evolution of Clef Signatures (Second Article). In 'The Musical Times, Vol. 50, No. 793 (Mar. 1, 1909), pp. 159-160
  • Morris and Ferguson. Preparatory Exercises in Score-Reading.

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ...

Notes

  1. ^ Strictly speaking, the clef does not indicate the 'pitch' of the notes, but their 'names'; the actual pitch may vary according to the tuning system or pitch standard employed.
  2. ^ Although Russian composers persisted in using them well into the twentieth century, the alto trombone is not so popular as it had once been, and now the 1st Trombone often plays the alto trombone parts.
  3. ^ Kidson

  Results from FactBites:
 
Clef - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2357 words)
3.2 The subbass clef and the baritone clef
The C clef on the bottom line is named the soprano clef, which is occasionally seen in music for violin and clarinet in A. The 5th line C clef, or baritone clef, is often written as the 3rd line F clef; both ways are exactly equivalent.
The percussion clef is not a clef in the same sense that the F, C and G clefs are.
Octave treble clef (251 words)
The vocal tenor clef is used in vocal music for the male tenor voice part to indicate that the tenor voice actually sounds an octave lower that where it is notated in the normal treble clef.
The vocal tenor clef should not be confused with the C clef that is also named tenor clef.
In the past, the C clef known as the tenor clef was used for the tenor voice and is still used for other instruments in the same range such as the trombone, the cello, and the bassoon.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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