The Stave and the Clef

Spy Tunes GuruThe clef on the stave is not set in stone!

For those of you who just can’t stop asking yourself: but why?!?, might have looked at the stave in the last couple of music theory lessons and said:

  • Why is C on a ledger line?
  • What does the clef actually mean?
  • Aren’t there other clefs as well?

And you would be right, let’s clear this up as well since the clef determines everything we do on the stave!

The clef we use as guitar players is called a treble clef. When we start drawing this by hand, we start on the second to lowest line of the stave and draw out.

This line is where the note G will be.

In some countries the treble clef is therefore called a “G clef”.

But there are also other clefs, the bass clef for example starts on the second to highest line and that note is an F, but two octaves lower than where the treble clef indicated its G.

This F is on fret 1 on the guitar so there is no point for guitar players to use this clef since almost everything we play would be above that system.

On bass on the other hand, the majority of its range sits perfectly well on the stave using a bass clef or “F clef”, what the bass player reads as an F sits where the D is on guitar!

The Guitars range on the stave

The guitar has a huge range, below you can see how the low E starts several ledger lines below the stave and ends several above.

Not all guitars have the same amount of frets, 24 fret metal guitars for example go all the way up to E, spanning 4 octaves.

Most guitars however have 3 octaves and a bit available.

In the picture below we go from a low E to a high G.

Playing in different octaves

The 8va sign is used to allow us to write on the stave, so it’s easy to read, the 8va sign then tells us to: play this an octave up.

Similarly there is an 8vb tells us: play this an octave down.

The system below further explain this.

How much you end up using the 8va sign and how often you use ledger lines is up to you, most sheet music you’ll end up reading, if you really get into this, will be your own!

You can learn more about how to understand the guitar and music itself when you take one of our courses.

Dan (your guitar guru)

Low big ad intermediate course

About Guru

I have made up my mind: You Can Learn Guitar!
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9 thoughts on “The Stave and the Clef

  1. tatiana

    At the first time I want to excuse me for my English. I`m from Russia:) I hope I have correctly understood the question :)

    I can find more than 20 ways playing … much more!:) I have a classic education that`s why it isn`t difficultly for me

    1. Guru Post author

      Yes that is probably why, classical musicians learn to play and read at the same time, best way!

      How long did it take you to become a good reader?

  2. tatiana

    No …
    We learned scale exercises ву Andres Segoviya , basically. It was so difficult for little girl`s finger (I was 10-11 years old only). I want to learn, to pass test , to forget it and never to come back :)

    I didn`t wrote down things never. I hasn`t patience for it

    I play the piano and block-flute (alt, soprano) mainly not by notes and on hearing

    1. Guru Post author

      Ah, well he has done more for guitar education than anyone else!

      There was a lot of thought behind those exercises I promise :)

      When entering popular music a few things change, but not as many as one might first think.

      Saying that, hand position and scale shapes are two pretty big topics!

      Great to have you onboard, looking forward to see how you get on with the material here at spytunes.

      Are you here for songs or practice, or maybe both?

  3. tatiana

    I have found spytunes when searched how to play “I wish” . Now I see that spytunes gives answers to many (many!) questions . Thanks for your great job very mach!!!

  4. Pingback: The range of the guitar on piano and stave | Spy Tunes

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