Music notation is very different from the written language that we all use every day. But don’t let that scare you away! It’s not as complicated to use as you might think.

To write music, we use symbols to represent three important properties of sound that I mentioned in the introduction.

Those properties are pitch, duration, and intensity. Pitch and duration are represented simultaneously on a music staff. 

Meanwhile, there are a number of symbols we use to represent or describe the intensity of our sounds.

Getting Started

The first thing we would consider writing would be the pitch. Pitch can be described as the highness or lowness of a sound. When using music notation, the pitch is represented by different symbols(notes) that are positioned on a staff. These symbols are then given letter names. The letter names used are the first seven letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

The Music Staff

The staff is made up of five horizontal lines and four spaces between those lines.

Notes may be placed on the lines, on the spaces, or even above or below the staff.

Every staff has a clef symbol placed on the far left of the staff. A clef is a symbol that lets us know what the names of the lines and spaces on the staff will be called.


Treble Clef (G Clef)

Guitar music is written in the treble clef. Treble clef is also called the G Clef because of its symbol. The symbol looks like a fancy letter G. Its curved line ends at the second line of the staff, circling the second line from the bottom. This lets us know that the name of a note on that line is G.

Bass Clef (F Clef)

The Bass clef is also known as the F Clef. This clef names the 4th line from the bottom as F. Most of the time on the piano, the left hand plays in the bass clef and the right hand plays in treble clef.

The Grand Staff

Most piano music is written using the grand staff(Treble and Bass clefs together). For the guitar we will stick to the treble clef.

Ledger Lines

When a pitch goes beyond the limits of the staff we can still write the pitch by adding what we call ledger lines above or below the staff. Ledger lines are drawn parallel to the staff and should only represent one note.

Other Clefs

C clef – A C clef can be placed on any line of the staff to make that line equal middle C.

Alto Clef – a c clef that names the third line on the staff as middle C. This is the standard clef for  Viola music.

Tenor Clef – a c clef that names the fourth line as middle C. Sometimes, you may find this clef used in music written for the cello, bassoon, or trombone.