This and the next several lessons introduce reading and writing written
notes. You'll need this to read the examples in our melody
lessons, e.g. Lesson 44: Hook Melodies, as well as to learn to
play and analyze songs from sheet music and fake books.
Just reading these lessons will not make you able to read music; you
also need lots of practice learning to play written music. We
can't give you that in this theory course; most people need a teacher to
help with that. Think of these written-notes lessons as an introduction and
This first "written notes" lesson shows you the treble staff, which
is what we write the notes on. A music staff is a set of five lines:
We write the notes on these lines and on the spaces between the
lines. Each pitch-letter (C, D, E, ...) goes on its
own line or space. Which pitch-letter goes on which line or space?
Well, that depends on which clef we use:
A clef is a symbol that we place on the staff to show which letter
goes on which line. There are two common clefs, the G clef and the
F clef; for now, we'll just use the G clef.
The G clef looks like this:
The G clef is actually a fancy letter G. It's usually placed on the
staff like this:
The G clef shows you where to find the "G line": The G line is in the
middle of the spiral. Here's the staff again, with the G line colored
purple and a "G note" placed on it:
When the G clef is placed on the staff this way, with the G-note on line 2,
the clef is called the treble clef and the staff is called the
treble staff. The G on line 2 is the G above middle C.
Now that we have this G line as a starting point, we can find the
pitch-letters below and above this G, namely F and A, on the
spaces below and above the G line:
From here we can keep going up and down, and find the pitch-letters for
every line and space on the treble staff. Here they are: