Learning to play pieces using the treble clef

When you play an instrument you learn to read and play notes using the treble clef as in the flute, the violin, the clarinet, the trumpet or the bass clef as in the bassoon, the double bass or both as in the piano. This article is about how to learn to play pieces using the treble clef.

When you learn an instrument you learn:

1. music notation

2. read the notes and rests

3. how to play the notes on the chosen instrument

The following consists of those topics in more detail.

1. basic notation

Treble clef: This is the sign at the beginning of each line of the piece of music.

Stave: These are the five horizontal lines on which the music is written.

compass lines: These are the vertical lines you see on the staff.

Double barline: This consists of two vertical lines to indicate the end of a piece.

Bar: This is the piece of music between two bars.

Time signature: It consists of the two numbers, one below the other, found after the clef sign, for example the treble clef indicating how many beats are in a measure.

Key Signature: This is a ‘signature’ of flats, sharps, or nothing, which sits between the clef sign and the time signature, telling you what key the piece of music is in. There are 12 major keys and 12 minor keys. Each major key has a minor key with the same key signature, for example a piece with a sharp key signature may be in G major or D minor. You learn to remember what the name of the key is.

two. Read the notes on the page

A Note it is the signal that tells you what sound to play and for how long. They are oval in shape with or without tail(s).


There are line notes and space notes. Line notes are formed in such a way that the line falls in the middle of the note. Space notes are placed between two lines so that they touch the lines.

When you learn to read and play the notes, there are many repetitions starting with rows of one note and then two notes and then three and more notes. Repetition helps you remember the position of the notes on the staff, the length of the notes, and the quality of the notes on the chosen instrument (if it’s not the piano).

To help remember your notes, you can use the following as a guide:

Spatial Notes: The four space notes from bottom to top spell the word FACE

Line notes: You form a sentence and use the first letter of each word to get the note names from the lowest line note up. A common example sentence is “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” for EGBDF notes

Note length:

Notes are held at different lengths. When you first learn an instrument, you start with the 1, 2, 4 count or beat note, then the 3 1/2 count note followed by shorter dotted count notes.

The following is a basic list of note names and note lengths in order of length. I’m calling count and beat the same.

eighth note: 1/2 time

inseam: 1 time

dotted crotch: 1 1/2 times

minimum: 2 times

dotted minimum: 3 beats

semibreve: 4 beats

Reading the silences on the page:

In music there are times when you don’t play and this is indicated by rest signs. There are rest times equivalent to those of the notes and they are written in a particular place on the staff depending on what the time is. Each one looks different and you learn and remember them from repetition.

3. How to play the notes on the chosen instrument:

You will need to follow the guidance of a tutor book yourself, a teacher, or the internet.

You’ll play exercises and pieces, step by step, to help you master basic notation, read notes and rests, and master the sound of your chosen instrument. For example, to play BAG pieces, that is, pieces using the BAG notes you will play:

~ rows of B, rows of A, rows of G

~ rows of two notes, eg BA BA BA BA; AG AG AG AG; etc.

~ variations of the three notes

You can play notes without music (for the sound), with music (by learning the treble clef reading), and with different lengths of time with and without music.

There is a lot to learn and it is best to play SLOWLY for accuracy when first learning a piece. It will follow the proper speed.

The main ingredient for playing treble clef pieces are the three P’s: play play play

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