Chapter 2. Staff


In this chapter, you'll learn the difference between a tone and a note. You'll learn how to notate the natural notes on a staff. You'll also learn about the cleff.

1. How to write down natural notes?


A tone is a sound, a tone is what you hear.
A note is a written tone, a note is a tone written down in musical notation.

The tones that you write in musical notation, are called natural notes.
On the piano, the natural notes are the white keys with the names A, B, C, D, E, F and G.
The black keys are not individually written out.


The natural notes are notated onto a staff. A staff consists of five lines. The notes can be notated on the lines or between them.

note example

Tones played in an ascending order are also notated in this order. The notes notated on the lowest line are lower than the notes notated on the uppermost line.


Whenever a tone is notated on a line, the next highest tone is notated between the lines. The next highest tone to this is then notated on the next uppermost line.


For example, when the note on the lowest line is an A, the note above this (between the lines) is a B. We have gone up by one (natural) note. The note on the next line is a C, and so on.

note example

Ledger Lines


We can extend the staff both upwards and downwards with extra lines. These lines are called ledger lines. Using these, it is possible to notate higher or lower tones.

note example

2. Making decisions


In order to read the notes, we have to make two decisions:


1 We choose one of the five lines, and decide on which natural note goes through this line.

2 We indicate (for example on the piano) which tone we mean exactly.


An example


1 We choose the middle line in the five lines. We decide that the note on this line is C.



2 We have to indicate what C we choose. For example, we choose Middle C.



3 We now know what one note is, and are able to read the other notes as well.



3. The clef


When we have decided that the note on the middle line is C, we place a capital letter C at the beginning of the staff. This means that the note on the middle line is a C.

note example

We decide that if we choose C, we always mean Middle C. The capital letter C at the beginning of the staff indicates that the note on the middle line is Middle C. We are now able to read all the notes in the staff.

note example

Capital letter is a clef!


We call the (capital) letter at the beginning of the staff a clef.
The capital letter C at the beginning of the staff is called the C-clef.