Music Theory

Lesson 3


Pitch Notation


Early vocal music was directed by pointing to various knuckles on the hand to indicate the various pitches.  This method of pitch notation was known as the Guidonian Hand, named after its inventor, Guido.  A refinement of this notational system came when two lines were used to indicate two fixed pitches, around which the others could be located.  Gradually, three more lines crept into the musical staff, leaving us with five lines and four spaces.





The letters A-G are used to indicate pitch, but these pitches may appear on different lines or spaces depending on which clef is used.  Clefs fix a certain pitch with a particular line or space, and always appear at the very beginning of every line of music.  The treble clef




fixes G on the second line from the bottom.  This clef is used by instruments with high ranges like the violin, the trumpet, and the right hand of the piano.  The bass clef




fixes F as the fourth line from the bottom.  This clef is used by instruments with low ranges like the string bass, the tuba, and the left hand of the piano.  The C clef is used by mid-ranged instruments like the viola, bassoon and cello.  This clef can be moved to any line or space, but most frequently appear on the third line (the alto clef) and the fourth line (the tenor clef).









© Copyright 2005

Mark McFarland