Today we will focus on pitch notation which is specifically the tonal or melodic information written in a musical piece, rather than the rhythmic information. I find it good to keep the two separated until both have been sufficiently explored and practiced.
Notes on the treble clef
In written music, pitch is notated on the staff on the vertical axis (up and down), and each line and space on the staff represents a different pitch. Each pitch is given a letter from the first seven letters of the alphabet, either A, B, C, D, E, F or G, at which point we start the series of seven letters over again to A. There is also what we call sharps and flats, a sharp symbol (♯) beside a note on the staff tells the reader that the note in question should be raised one semitone on the instrument, and a flat symbol (♭) beside a note tells the reader to lower it by a semitone.
Following on from our previous lessons, we know that the clef written at the very beginning of the music defines the tonal range of the staff, and the two most common clefs are the treble clef and the bass clef. As a guitarist, you will mostly be reading music in the treble clef, but we will be learning the bass clef too as it tends to produce a clearer picture in your mind.
Looking at the diagram below, you will see the treble clef to the far left. The treble clef is sometimes called the G clef as it actually points to G on the staff (second line). Now looking at the red letters to the right, you will see all of the notes from the treble clef. An easy way to remember which notes are where is to think of the word FACE, as these are the notes on the four spaces on the treble staff. The best way to remember the notes on the lines is the sentence: Every Good Boy Does Fine as the first letter of each word is the same as the notes on each line, starting from the bottom up. Practice these two tips until they are memorized as you will be referring to them often.
There is one other, extremely important skill you must learn, it is not only to memorize the first seven letters of the alphabet, but to also learn them backwards as well, as you will frequently be counting backwards and forwards on the staff. So, let's go through them forwards and backwards: A, B, C, D, E, F, G then G, F, E, D, C, B, A and keep practicing until you have memorized this sequence in both directions.
Notes on the bass clef
Now onto the bass clef which has a lower tonal range than the treble clef, and is used to write music for instruments like the bass guitar, cello, double bass and the lower part of the piano. The bass clef is sometimes referred to as the F clef because the line in between the two dots is the note F. Looking at the diagram below you will see all the notes of the bass clef in red. As you can see they differ from the treble clef so it is necessary to find other acronyms to help you remember which notes are where. The four spaces can be remembered by the sentence: All Cows Eat Grass, and the five lines can be remembered using the sentence: Good Boys Do Fine Always.
Now looking at both the treble clef diagram and the bass clef diagram, do you notice the position of middle C on both staffs?. Middle C belongs on the one and only line that lives in between both staffs. Now looking at the diagram below you will see the grand staff which shows the relationship between the treble and bass clefs.
I hope you enjoyed the fourth part of my music theory lessons and be sure to follow on to the next: Rhythm notation.
Cheers & enjoy!