Author Topic: No__122__The Clefs  (Read 843 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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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    F’s    on the left hand side.   
We’ll continue to explore the evolution of the clef in the next Reply.

Peter
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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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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 F’s 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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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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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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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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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2019, 06:51:53 AM »
Here is a score, showing a few bars of the famous second movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 6, the Pathetique.



You will see how he uses the Bass Clef and the Tenor Clef to reduce the ledger lines needed.

However the player needs to be alert and adjust their appreciation of the clef they are using, in order to hit the correct notes.

It is easy to work out that The Tenor Clef effectively lowers the notes of the Bass Clef by 4 tones.

             (In the bass clef, middle C is on the first ledger line above the staff,
              while in the tenor clef Middle C is on the 4th line counting up from the bottom of the staff.)

In the next reply, after reviewing a simple trick, we look at 3 more versions of the use of the C clef, but they are much less popular

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2019, 03:37:20 PM »
If, like most of us you are very familiar with recognising the notes in the Treble Clef, but like a few of us, not so familiar with quickly identifying the bass clef notes here is a simple idea for you.

     How to convert Bass Clef notes, using the Treble Clef

Here’s a neat trick to help identify a note in the bass clef, providing you are already very familiar with the treble clef.

To identify a note in the bass clef, pretend the note you are looking at was written in treble clef instead.

Then simply take that result, count up 2 notes, and then subtract 2 octaves.

So, here are some step by step examples, to show you how it works:

                 

                                       

                                                               

Don't forget that in this case,  starting with A4, then adding 2 notes,   (namely B4 and then the next C)    it takes you to C5 which is the C above Middle C.   
So C5 down 2 octaves ends up on C3.

 
In the same fashion,

                 

                                 

                                                       



One more final one

                 

                                 

                                                         

 
 
Obviously, with a little practice, you can get much quicker at doing this conversion, until it becomes second nature.

However, surely, your eventual goal is to know the notes of bass clef just by looking, as readily as you do the treble clef, without using any tricks.


In the next reply we get back to looking at 3 more versions of the use of the C clef, which are less popular

Peter

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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2019, 05:31:35 AM »

The three other variations of clef that utilise the C clef are as shown below.

These are very rare nowadays, but you may come across one or other of them.

Just remember that the note C is situated in the centre of the two bows, so this completes the total of versions of this C clef, with each one centred on one of the lines of the staff.

The Soprano clef

                               

Where the note middle C is situated on the bottom line if the staff


The MezzoSoprano clef

                             

Where the note middle C is designated as the second from bottom line of the staff.



And finally here, the Baritone clef

                             

Where the note middle C is designated as the top line on the staff.

This is why this clef is also known as the C5 clef.


In the next Reply we look at another Baritone clef.

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2019, 06:41:29 AM »
We are all familiar with the treble clef, which is usually used for the right hand in music scores for organs and keyboards:
                         

Similarly the bass clef
                         
                                is used mainly for the left hand in music scores for organs and keyboards.

However, when placed on the middle line of the staff, it becomes another Baritone Clef, like this:

                       

                                         It changes the pitch of the notes on this staff, as those two dots still straddle the F note.
I suppose unsurprisingly, this is why this clef is generally called the Baritone F Clef, and, hopefully you will immediately understand why, it is also called the F3 clef, but it is used quite rarely nowadays.

You ought, also, to be aware that there is the Sub Bass Clef that sits on the staff like this, moving the F note to the top line of the staff:

                       

                                   This is also called the Contra Bass Clef or the F5 clef.   Again, I trust that you can see why it is called the F5 clef.


These clefs have various descriptions in foreign languages and here they are in summary.

(You will these foreign language terms for Baritone F, Subbass Clefs and Baritone C, listed below)

            Baritone F Cle      -    chiave di baritone (Italian),     Baritonschlüssel (German),   clé de fa troisième ligne, clef de fa 3e, (French),   clave de fa en tercera,   clave de baritone (Spanish)

            Subbass clef,   contrabass clef      -       chiave di basso profundo (Italian,    Subbassschlüssel (German)   clé de fa 5e,  clef de fa 5e (French),    clave de fa en quinta (Spanish)


The Bass or F4 clef, or the F clef   has two variants, which are called the baritone, or F3, and the Subbass,  Contrabass  or F5 clefs.

The Baritone clef sets F on the third line of the staff, while the Subbass clef sets the F below middle C on the top line of the staff.

There is an alternative baritone or C5 clef, which obviously uses the C clef, and places the C clef on the top line.

This clef has various descriptions in foreign languages and they are:
                Baritone C clef       -       chiave di baritone (Italian),    Baroitnschüssel (German),    clé d’ut cinquième ligne,   clé d’ut 5e (French),     clave de do en quinta,  clave de baritone (Spanish)


In the next reply, we consider a neutral clef, before considering octave clefs.

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2019, 06:55:48 AM »
This will seldom be required by you to play your Yamaha AR, for obvious reasons, but you may find this clef on large manuscripts, with several lines of music scores.

It is called the Neutral Clef, and I think you can see why.

But in my opinion, a more useful description is

The Percussion Clef.

The Percussion Clef             

                     

                              which is also known as the Indefinite Pitch Clef, Neutral Clef, or Rhythm Clef, together with these names in other languages.....
             chiavre neutral (Italian), Schlagzeugschlüssel (German), clé neutre  or clef neutre(French), clave neutral or clave para percussión (Spanish) 
 
            ..... is used for those scores where the pitch of the sound is indeterminate.   

Either of those symbols, above, but not both together, can be used to define this clef.    You do not see both of them together, but I have put them together just to illustrate them.

Obviously you only need a single line to indicate where you want the untuned percussion to sound and for how long, but you will often find the familiar 5 lined staff is used.

Often, though, you may find different percussive instruments assigned to a particular line. 
This makes life easier for the percussionist to read.

For example a drummer using a drum kit, with several drums and cymbals all in use together, may have each drum/cymbal on a different line.

In the next Replies we will investigate Octave Clefs.

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2019, 07:02:15 AM »
Octave Clefs

Even with the freedom to move the C, F and G clefs around on the five line staff, occasionally the musical line, or a section of it, is still either too high or low to fit neatly within it.

One way to overcome this, which I am certain we are all familiar with, is to move the musical line up or down by an octave or two.

Here is an example of an octave shift upwards:

                     

The ottava symbols    8     or     8va     are used in music to instruct performers that certain notes are intended to be executed an octave higher or lower than their written pitch.
This is, as we have seen, particularly useful when the range of the notes greatly exceeds the capabilities of the staff, for a given clef.
While the vast majority of classical music uses, in most cases, simply the number    8,  it is very common to see    8va   as in the illustration above.

No prizes for spotting where this extract is from.

In the Italian language,     8va is simply the shorthand written form for the ordinal ottava.
In exactly the same way, we use in English    8th    as the shortened form for the term  eighth,

                                8va     means play an octave higher than written

as you see in the illustration above.


Whereas
                                8vb  or  8ba     means play an octave lower than written

like this
                               


                                15ma     means play two octaves higher than written

The musical command 15ma, or “quindicesima”, which means a fifteenth, indicates a note or series of notes will be played two octaves higher than written.

    while                    15vb  or  15ba    means play two octaves lower

So the music is read at one octave but played and sounds at another.

An 8 or 8va will always be placed above the notes on the staff, to indicate raising the notes by an octave, and equally an 8 or an 8vb or an 8ba will always be placed below the notes on the staff when indicating that they should be played an octave lower, as shown in the example above.

The musical symbol 8vb, which is  an abbreviation of ottava bassa, or “low octave”, {also ottava sotto, “an octave under” (Italian)} is an indication to play notes an octave lower than written on the staff.
8vb, as we have repeatedly stressed, makes the reading and writing of notes off the staff, much easier, as this would otherwise have multiple ledger lines.

8vb can affect a single note, or it may span several measures. In the latter case, it stops at the word loco, or at the end of its dotted, horizontal line. If an entire staff is affected, a tiny 8 will be sitting atop the clef.

In the same way, if you see a 15 instead of an 8, then you play the music two octaves higher or lower, depending on whether the 15 is above or below the clef.

You may find a double treble clef sign, which means you play the music two octaves lower, and here is what that double G clef looks like on the score:

                                 

Here is an illustration of most of these musical octave instructions, together on the same score:

                                 


Now where does the Octave clef feature in all of this?

We see that in the next Reply.

Peter
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Re: No__122___The Clefs
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2019, 07:38:26 AM »

Octave Clef           
          which is also known in other languages as
                                         chiave di trasposizione all’ottavo (Italian)
                                         oktavierende Schlüssel (German)
                                         clé de octaviée or clef de octaviée (French)
                                         clave de transposiciones de octava or clave de octavas (Spanish)


Another way of overcoming the undue use of ledger lines is to incorporate octave clefs where the whole section of the music score is controlled by the introduction of one of these clefs.

If you see this clef

                     

                                               then you play all the notes on that staff an octave higher.


If you see this clef

                           

                                               then you play all the notes on that staff an octave lower.



If you see this clef
                     
                           

                                               then you play all the notes on that staff two octaves higher.


and in the same fashion if the 15 were under the C clef, you would play all the notes on that staff two octaves lower.


There is another version of the two octaves lower that we saw in the previous Reply, and it is this



In the final Reply, you will find a summary of all the clefs in one place.

Peter
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