Author Topic: No__122___The Clefs  (Read 80 times)

Peter Anderson

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No__122___The Clefs
« on: November 23, 2019, 07:26:31 AM »
The Clefs

Initially when mankind first began to talk, reading and writing was unheard of.    But the time came when both these abilities became necessary, so something had to be done.

In a similar fashion, there came a time when the necessity for humankind to record music on to paper, so that others could reproduce those sounds was also a necessity.

For centuries, music notation, if you could call it that, was purely some hasty marks and symbols, scrawled on some parchment.    It was very imprecise, had few set rules and was difficult to understand.

For instance, here is a sample of some 12th Century music notation:



Everything about it looks haphazard and awkward.     Well that is probably due in part to the fact that these were recorded by musical scribes on to parchment, and although there is  a quaintness about the product, at least it served its purpose for them, even though it also had many limitations.

Clearly as the desire to study music, or to get groups of musicians playing the same piece together, more sophistication was required in the method of scoring the notes, especially where the music was lengthy and complicated.

Bearing in mind that we take for granted many modern logos like these:

     @                    $         &     

How come we finally finished up with such simple yet attractive symbols to identify our staves?

We attempt to explain this in the following Replies.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2019, 07:00:40 AM »
First let us define what  a Clef is.

A Clef is a sign placed generally at the beginning of a musical staff that specifies what pitch is represented by each line and space on that staff.
Towards the end of the 9th Century, when the Gregorian Chant, (also known as Plainsong) was the main music of the church, and needed to be written down, for the use by others, scribes used Neumes.     These were simple dots and dashes placed above the lyrics (generally written in Latin, of course) that indicated the relative change in pitch.

A century later, an extra horizontal line appeared, which further identified the base pitch, and the pitch of that line was in turn identified with a letter.

The letters which were used initially were       F    and     C,      but as songs written in a higher range became more common, so,       G     was added.

This meant that for the first time Neumes were not only relative to one another on the same page, but now were recorded to a standard.
This is the beginning of the musical staff that we are familiar with today.

Take another look at that 12th Century score and pick out those details:


Notice the variation in those letter    Fs    on the left hand side.   
Well continue to explore the evolution of the clef in the next Reply.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2019, 06:13:06 AM »

Those letters on scores, namely     F,  C &  G, evolved over time into those smooth, attractive clefs that we know today.

The Treble Clef     
                                     
                                                    is a standardised representation of the letter G.

Here is a photo of how that treble clef has evolved, in to what we use today, and you can trace the evidence of the G pretty clearly:



It is important to point out, that as all these copies and initial manuscripts were hand  drawn, it is hardly surprising that there were inaccuracies and idiosyncrasies in their shapes, as they were passed on down the line.
This is the most common of all the clefs, and is generally the first clef that anyone learns, so it is not surprising that this clef symbol is often used in a cartoon fashion to define music.

The treble clef is centred on the second line from the bottom of the staff, which is the note G, like this:
                                         
                                   

Therefore, this clef defines all the notes on the staff, when using this clef as follows:

                                   

The instruments that use this clef include:
Violin, flute, oboe, bagpipes, cor anglais, clarinets, saxophone, horn, cornet, vibraphone, xylophone, mandolin, and recorder.
The guitar also uses this clef but the notes sound an octave lower.

This clef is sometimes used for the highest notes played by bass clef* instruments, like the cello, double bass (sounds an octave lower) bassoon, trombone and viola.
It is also used for the higher notes (usually the right hand) of keyboard music and the harp.

The voices that are notated in the treble clef are:
Soprano, MezzoSoprano, Alto, Contralto and tenor.

*We will cover the bass clef in the next Reply
Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2019, 09:58:03 PM »

Those initial letters, namely  G  F  C,   that were used on scores,   evolved over time into a stylised representation, that we know as our common clefs today.

We have seen how that G developed in the treble clef, and in a similar fashion, the Bass Clef

                                       

                                                      is a rather fancy, though unusual representation of the letter F.

Although it is dramatic, it is barely recognisable from those Fs first used over a thousand years ago.
This is generally the second clef that people learn.

When placed on the staff, those two dots straddle the F note, like this:

                         


This means that the notes of each line and space on the staff are as shown here:
         
                         


It is used by the following instruments:
Cello, euphonium, double bass,bass guitar, bassoon, contrabassoon, trombone, baritone hoirn, tuba,and timpani.

It is also used for the lowest notes of the horn and also as the bottom staff for keyboards and the harp.

Voices that use the bass clef include:
Bass and baritone, though the tenor can be notated on bass clef, especially when bass and tenor are notated on the same staff.

In the next Reply we will discover how the position of the clef on the staff affects the pitch.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2019, 07:28:15 AM »
By varying the position of any clef on the staff, it changes the pitch of the notes assigned to that staff.

Probably the most familiar clef is the Treble Clef, which is also known as the    G  Clef   because it originates from that letter  G    and, when placed in the common position, also marks the G above middle C, on the second line of the stave from the bottom, as we have seen, thus:

                       

Music notation should be clear and easy to follow and for the most part it is, but if the musical line goes way above or below the staff, then ledger lies are used.   

We can cope with one or two ledger lines, but we all find it quite tricky to read notes, especially at speed if there are a lot of them.  When there are many ledger lines, it also tends to generate more errors in our playing.
Beside this the amount of space and ink to produce the score is rather inefficient, which can also result in too many page turns.

So the introduction of additional clefs, allows composers to set their music mainly within the 5 line/4space staff.   Changes throughout a score to the clef considerably reduces the multitude of ledger lines.

We will consider more of these clefs in the following Replies, after presenting an extreme score, which has many amusing comments on it, as well as a multitude of ledger lines.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2019, 07:38:39 AM »
Don't miss reading the previous Reply

If you were presented with this score, I think you would agree that keeping things as simple as possible, is of the utmost importance.

In this extreme example, which has composer notes all over it, ledger lines are just one of the issues to be accommodated.    So moving the pitch of the staff, by using a different clef, does make a lot of sense.



Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2019, 07:23:50 AM »

In the 17th & 18th Centuries, another clef was used for violin music, especially for those scores published in France, which is why it is called the French Violin Clef.   

You may also see this referred to as simply the French Clef, or the G1 Clef.

Because it is a G Clef, it sets the G note, above middle C, in this instance on the bottom line.  (hence its alternative name of G1)

                       

                                 You may have come across music scores with this clef.

Surprisingly it was mainly used for flute music, despite being named the French violin clef.

In the next reply, we look at a couple of clefs that will be very familiar to some of you.

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2019, 05:58:17 AM »

The Treble Clef on the staff, was also known as the Alto and Tenor Clef, but its use for both of these two declined over the 20th Century to be replaced by a different symbol, namely

                                   

You will be familiar with this symbol, especially if you have read other Peters Pearls.

When placed on the staff, the centre point between the two bows defines the note C.

There are many variations by position of this C clef, but the two in fairly common use are

the Alto clef
                                 

where the C note is on the third line from the bottom of the staff.

Here is a chart showing all the notes on the main staff when using the alto clef
                                 

This alto clef is used primarily for the viola, the viola da gamba, the trombone and the mondola.
This is the most common clef for viola music.

The C clef is also used as the Tenor clef when it is placed higher on the staff like this:
                                   

and the centre of the bow in this case defines the note C as being on the fourth line from the bottom.

Here are all the notes on the staff, when using the tenor clef:
                                 

This tenor clef is used mainly for the upper ranges of the
      bassoon, cello, euphonium, double bass and trombone.
         These instruments use the treble clef for their upper range notes.

Both the Alto Clef and the Tenor Clef are still in regular use and you are likely to come across music scores using them.

In the next Reply we see a music score from a well known piece of music, that uses two of these clefs on the same sheet.

Peter
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