Lesson 21

The Grand Staff

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Hello and welcome back. I'm Joseph Hoffman.
Today we're learning about something very important.
It's a special tool for writing music called the grand staff.

Let me tell you a true story of how the first staff was invented.
About a thousand years ago there were men called monks,
who lived together in a place called a monastery
that kind of looks like a small castle.
These monks were religious people.
They read the Bible.
They got together every three hours to sing and to pray.
They knew hundreds of different songs which we call chants,
so many chants in fact that the monks started to realize
it was getting hard to remember them all.
So they invented a way to draw the notes
so they could remember and easily share with others
the hundreds of chants that they knew.
The system they invented is still in use today,
and it's what we use to draw music.

Let me show you what it looks like. This is a staff.
It's what the monks invented as a tool for drawing notes.
Let's see how many of these lines there are.
Count them with me.
One, two, three, four, five, lines.
You might be interested to know that,
when it was first invented a thousand years ago,
it only had four lines, but today we use a five-line staff.
Well, the monks decided that if the song had a low note,
they would draw it down low on the staff like this,
and the higher the position of the note,
the higher you would sing, like this: ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba.

They also decided that notes could be on a line, like this,
or on a space between the lines, like this,
and as notes step up, they go line-space-line-space-line.
Originally notes were drawn
with these kind of square and rectangle shapes,
but today we use a round shape called the note head, like these.

Let me draw a part of a song, and see if you can guess what song it is.
These three note heads form a stepping down pattern, like this:
Ba ba ba,
Ba ba ba.
That's right, this song is Hot Cross Buns.

Now here's another song. This one goes:
That's right, Frog in the Middle.
See, when the notes go lower for Frog in the Middle,
we drop down to this line: SO SO SO MI MI.
Remember that notes can be on lines or spaces.

For fun, let's practice being a line note, using your own head.
Can you make your head look like a line note?
The line goes right through the middle of the head when it's a line note.
Now let's practice being a space note.
There's usually a line under it and over it, like this.
Can you be a space note?
Sometimes space notes just have a line over it, or just a line under it,
but a space note will never have a line through it. This would be a line note.

Now you’re ready to meet the grand staff.
You'll notice that this time we have two staves, which is the plural of staff.
That's because, when playing piano music,
we need a staff for your left hand and a staff for your right hand.
When you put those two staves together, it makes the grand staff.

You probably also noticed that there are some new symbols here.
Let's trace this squiggly line starting right here.
Can you trace this with me? Round up and down.
This symbol that we just traced is called the treble clef.
It sounds like trouble but it's treble.
Can you say that with me? Treble clef. Treble means high,
and so the treble clef is used when drawing any notes from this middle C
all the way up to the highest notes.
This treble clef is a symbol to remind you of something.
See how there is a hidden G shape in the treble clef?
Well, sometimes the treble clef is called the G clef,
and that's because, believe it or not,
it really is a very old fashioned and fancy way of drawing the letter G.
Hundreds of years ago, they sometimes liked to draw their letters really fancy,
and so in music it became tradition to draw this G clef,
or treble clef, right here to remind you
that the line going through this G swirl is the line for the note G.
So anytime you see a note head on that G line,
we call that note treble G on the piano. That's this note right here.

If I were to put three note heads on G,
that would mean to play or sing G three times,
like at the start of Frog in the Middle: Ba-ba-ba.
But, if the note head moves off the G line, like up to this space,
then it becomes a different note, one step higher.
Can you think of the note that's a step above G?
If you said A, you're correct.
So this is the G line, then this note is A,
and what would this note be if we go from a space up to the next line?
Now we're on a B, and then what if we want to step higher?
That's right, now we're on t ...