Lesson 21

The Grand Staff

You must be logged in to comment.

Loading comments

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 the C. You see the pattern, line, space, line, space.
Now, if we go to the next line, we were on a C, now we go to, that's right, D.
We could keep going from there. D, say it with me: E, F, G.

Now if we want to keep going higher,
then we'll need a special line called a ledger line.
Ledger lines help us go off the staff, above or below.
So if you want to keep going past this G, we could go one higher up to A,
and keep on going as high as we want.

Now let's take a look at this other clef. This clef is for the low notes,
every note below middle C on the piano and all the way down.
It's shaped a little bit like a frowny face.
If I turn it sideways, you can see it's a little bit sad.
We call this one the bass clef, and its nickname is the F clef.
I know this is even harder to believe,
but the F clef is also an ancient, old-fashioned way to draw the letter F.
We call it an F clef because it is showing us where the F line is.
The F line always passes right in between the two eyes of Mr. Frowny Face.
Anytime a note head is on this line, we call that note bass F.
Bass F is right here on the piano.
Can you take your finger and trace it along the F line now, and say F? Good.

Now there's one more note I'd like you to learn today.
This note forms a kind of bridge between the treble staff and the bass staff,
and it's positioned on a ledger line, which, remember,
helps us to draw notes that go off the edge of the staff.
This note is one ledger line below the treble staff
or one ledger line above the bass staff, and we call it middle C.
Point to this note with me and say middle C, middle C.
Middle C is the C nearest the middle of your piano.

Point with me, and let's name all three of these notes that we learned today:
Treble G, middle C, bass F.
Now, let's name the two clefs: bass clef and treble clef.
Their nicknames are F clef and G clef.

Now let's do a game to review. Name the note that you see on the screen.
If you said middle C, you're correct.
Name this note. If you said bass F, you're correct.
What's this note? If you said treble G, you’re correct.

Now let's play one more game. This time we're going to go for a hunt.
This time, I've drawn lots of notes on the staff,
and you have to help me hunt for the one that I call out.
Can you point to the middle C?
If you're pointing right here, you’re correct.
Now can you point to the treble G?
If you're pointing right here you're correct.
This is the note that's on the G line.
Now can you point to the bass F?
If you're pointing right here, you’re correct.

Great job learning about the grand staff today.
Now you know the basics of reading and writing notes on the staff.
From our website, you can download worksheets
that will give you additional practice and review with the grand staff,
and some experience drawing the clefs and notes on the staff for yourself.
Thanks for watching, and see you next time.

Do you think Mr. Hoffman was being serious
about the bass clef being an old-fashioned letter F?
I'm not seeing it.
Oh yes, he's right.
Please observe. A long time ago, they drew their F's kind of like that.
Wow, really?
Then fancier like that. And even fancier, until we get the base clef.
Wow, it is an F! Huh, that's f-f-fantastic!
Factual and functional.
Fancy and philosophical.
Philosophical starts with the P.
Not an O. P!
I see.
Not C either! O gee.
G? I thought you said P.
I think it's time to drop it.
Well, C you later, bye.
Okay, bye.