The staff and clef

The staff is the five lines on which music is written. At the beginning of each piece is the clef. The clef dictates the notes of the staff it occupies.

The treble clef is the familiar symbol that looks like a graceful ampersand. Throughout the instruction pages, you are provided with a handy reference to the notes of the treble clef staff, as on the left side of this page. Below is a closer look at the notes of the treble clef staff. The image on the left gives only the notes within the confines of the staff; the one on the right shows how the notes continue both above and below the staff.


Perhaps you are familiar with one or more of the tricks for remembering the notes of the treble clef staff, such as "Every Good Boy Does Fine" for the lines and "FACE" for the spaces.

As mentioned above, it is the clef that dictates the notes of the staff. There are other clefs. One of the most commonly used ones being the bass clef. It is for lower-pitched parts such as the left hand of piano music. Often, most or all the notes of these parts would be hanging well below the staff if written on a treble clef staff. The bass clef staff accommodates such parts, allowing most or all of the notes to be on the staff, making them easier to read.

The notes of the bass clef staff differ from those of the treble clef staff, but in regard to Dear Old Illinois, you don't have to know them. Only the treble clef is used in the book and in these instruction pages. Nonetheless, the image below shows some other clefs.