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Why are their different clefs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Mike Money, Feb 9, 2004.

  1. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    What compelled the creators of what we consider traditional written music to make two different clefs? Wouldn't it have been much easier to just have one?
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Do you like reading all your music 5+ ledger lines above(or below) a staff?
  3. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    Neither. I have a hard enough time reading it on the staff.

    So it is just because some instruments spend more time on lower notes than others?
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    A low E on the Bass, open E, that would be 7 ledger lines below the Treble Clef staff.

    it's neither practical or efficient to write bass/tenor instruments in the same staff as soprano/alto instruments.
  5. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    there are more than 2 clefs... bass and treble, alto, tenor, movable clefs, even a contrabass clef.. essentially to avoid awkward notation, but that hasn't always been the case!

    A lot of orchestra trombone stuff is written in tenor clef... tenor clef is a ***** to read for someone who doesn't do it regularly. Basically the point of tenor clef was so that the lead trombone parts wouldn't have to be written in leger lines way above the staff. I guess nobody told this to Mr. Shostakovich! I subbed for the second trombonist in my local symphony once.. on the program was a shostokovich symphony, 2nd trombone part almost completele in tenor clef, and almost ever note written in leger lines below the staff. Talk about a mind ****!

    Afterwards I bought myself some clef-studies books written for cello(cellists often go between bass, tenor, and treble clef). Worked wonders.

    so the short answer to your question: I WISH there were only 2 clefs! :p

    EDIT: All swears need to be completely blocked out. Forum rules.
  6. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    I'm sorry I asked.

  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Well, for most applications there are only 2, I mean, sure you learn about tenor and alto and all that (not) jazz in theory, but it's rarely applied.

    Yea there are probably zillions of examples of tenor clef charts yadda yadda, but that doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of music written today only uses 2 clefs, if that.

    well, maybe not in orchestras...hahaha.

    fine, most NON-CLASSICAL music you'll encounter. :p

    ah well, it's no harm learning them all.

    From what I remember, there used to only be 4 lines in a staff, I can't verify that though.

    personally I think that the current system is great, but that's probably just because I'm used to it. :p

    Leger is marked as a spelling error on my system, Ledger is correct, however I don't know which to trust :p Leger is in my notation book so that's probably the correct way, but then again the beginning of 'the jazz theory book' misspelled categorizable :p
  8. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    here's some clefs. From the library of congress, circa 1857.

  9. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC

    Mark Levine's book is great!

    Leger, from the french "leger" meaning "light" or "soft", maybe? I've always spelled it 'leger'.

    as for the popular use of clefs... you'd be surprised how much vocal music is written in odd clefs! Of course, this presupposes that your singer can read music :p
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Every orchestral score for more than a chamber group will have more than two clefs for the parts - you also have to consider that most wind instruments are "transposing" - everything is shifted, so they are effectively reading a different clef which keeps more within the ledger lines!! Even recorders do this!! ;)
  11. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Also, you can change clef during the course of a song. For example, I've got some Bach cello suites in notation form and they frequently jump between bass and tenor clefs.

  12. Here we go againÂ…


    - Wil
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    If you can focus on the fact that the notation simply represents intervals within a certain key, it isn't that hard to switch between clefs or read ledger lines.

    When I sightread music, it generally doesn't occur to to identify each note by name then attempt to play it. It makes things harder than they have to be.
  14. Danksalot


    Apr 9, 2003
    Dallas, Texas, USA
    Endorsing Artist: SIT Strings
    I agree that most non-classical music is in either bass clef or treble clef. Classical music makes up a pretty big chunk of all standard notation sheet music out there, though.

    I have played lots of classical pieces that move between clefs within the piece. Some of the sonata's I've played have had entire sections in treble clef because tenor would have had lots of leger lines. It didn't take too much getting used to before I became comfortable sight reading in all of them. I think they are very usefull.

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