Pitch - Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet includes only 7 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. On the staff, each line or space represents a different letter.

The treble clef is also known as the G clef because it indicates that the second line from the bottom will be G. Notice how the clef makes a circle centered on the second line.

The remainder of the notes on the staff are named by going up and down the musical alphabet on alternating lines and spaces.

A popular technique for memorizing the notes in each clef is to use mnemonic devices for the lines and spaces. For the treble clef lines, the following phrase has been used for many years:

The spaces in treble clef actually spell the word FACE:

For bass clef, the following phrases work well:

These phrases are useful for the initial stages of learning to identify pitches in these clefs. However, to acheive true fluency, the student must practice this skill until all notes can be identified at sight. One excellent training program can be found here:

The programs on this site (one of my alma maters!!) are great for working on the fundamentals that we will be mastering in class. Begin with the note-reading drill and practice daily until you can read at least 20 notes in 1 minute (this would be an average speed of 3 sec/note in the stats display).

Other suggested forms of practice include:

  • Take some actual music and try reading the letter names (including accidentals as indicated by key signature). If you only have music in one clef, locate a library near you that has music you could check out. For a real good time and tremendous reading practice, check out a recording of the piece(s) as well and try to follow the score while you listen. This is a great way to improve your reading ability!
  • Pick up some flash cards at your local music store. This is not much different from working on the computer, but many of you may prefer this method.
  • Start taking piano lessons - you're going to have to do it anyway and a little head start wouldn't hurt.

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