Introduction to Reading Sheet Music

The Grand Staff

The five lines you see are called a staff. Each staff has a clef, which indicates which notes that staff contains. There are a number of different clefs that are used by various instruments. Two of the most common are the bass cleff and the treble clef. When they are joined together, they make the "grand staff." The grand staff is used by piano, organ, and harp.

Notes on the Treble Clef


Notes on the Bass Clef

Ledger Lines

If a note falls above or below a staff, it can be connected to the staff with ledger lines, which are short horizontal lines that are drawn with the same spacing as the staff, either above or below it.  The first four notes shown on the treble clef above are utilizing ledger lines, as are the last four own the bass clef.  Can you find the other two notes that are using ledger lines on the staffs shown above? 

Tricks to Simplify The Learning Process

There are a number of pneumonics that you can memorize to speed the process of memorizing the note values.

On the treble clef, the notes between the lines, from bottom to top, are FACE.
The notes on the lines of the treble, from bottom to top, spell EGBDF, which can be remembered as "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge."

The base cleff spells ACEG between the lines from bottom to top, which can be remembered as "All Cows Eat Grass"
The base cleff spells GBDFA on the lines from bottom to top, which can be remembered as "Good Boys Do Fine, Always."

What The Grand Staff Defender Game Doesn't Teach

In addition to the note values, there are different key signatures that will cause notes to be sharped or flatted. This is a skill that will need to be mastered after you have a firm grasp of the basic note values. Grand Staff Defender also does not teach the different note timings, such as whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, etc. Nor does it teach "rests", which are different symbols that represent a time duration for which to not play notes. Grand Staff Defender is intended to one specific skill of many that are necessary to read sheet music fluently.

Can I Use This to Learn Guitar?

A normal 6 string guitar, on the other hand, uses only the treble clef. But as you have already seen, notes can extend above and below the staff. With a guitar, the notes extend much further below the staff. The image below represents the notes of each of the six "open" strings of a guitar. An open string is one that is played without pressing the string at any fret. As you can see, even though it uses the treble clef, the notes are represented in a slightly different way. It would be fairly easy to master the treble clef as used by the guitar after learning to read the notes on the grand staff, so it's still a worthwhile endeavor even if you never plan to be a fluent piano player.

Notes on the Treble Clef For Six String Guitar