Symbols Of Music Defined

12. A staff is a collection of parallel lines, together with the

spaces belonging to them. The modern staff has five lines and six

spaces, these being ordinarily referred to as first line, second line,

third line, fourth line, and fifth line (beginning with the lowest); and

space below (i.e., space below the first line), first space, second

space, third space, fourth space, and space above.

The definition
and discussion above refer more specifically to one of

the portions of the great staff, the latter term being often applied

to the combination of treble and bass staffs (with one leger line

between) so commonly used in piano music, etc.

13. The extent of the staff may be increased either above or below by

the addition of short lines called leger lines,[4] and notes may be

written on either these lines or on the spaces above and below them.

[Footnote 4: The word leger is derived from the French word LEGER,

meaning light, and this use of the word refers to the fact that the

leger lines, being added by hand, are lighter--i.e., less solid in

color--than the printed lines of the staff itself.]

14. The lines and spaces constituting the staff (including leger lines

if any) are often referred to as staff degrees, i.e., each separate

line and space is considered to be a degree of the staff. The tones of

a scale are also sometimes referred to as degrees of the scale.

15. A clef[5] is a sign placed on the staff to designate what pitches

are to be represented by its lines and spaces. Thus, e.g., the G clef

shows us not only that the second line of the staff represents G, but

that the first line represents E, the first space F, etc. The F clef

similarly shows us that the fifth line of the bass staff represents the

first A below middle C, the fourth line the first F below middle C, etc.

[Footnote 5: The word clef is derived from CLAVIS--a key--the

reference being to the fact that the clef unlocks or makes clear the

meaning of the staff, as a key to a puzzle enables us to solve the


The student should note that these clefs are merely modified forms of

the letters G and F, which (among others) were used to designate the

pitches represented by certain lines when staff notation was first

inaugurated. For a fuller discussion of this matter see Appendix A, p.

101. [Transcriber's Note: Corrected error Appendix I in original.]

16. When the G clef is used the staff is usually referred to as the

treble staff, and when the F clef is used, as the bass staff. Such

expressions as singing from the treble clef, or singing in the treble

clef, and singing in the bass clef are still frequently heard, but

are preferably replaced by singing from the treble staff, and singing

from the bass staff. Fig. 6 shows the permanent names of lines and

spaces when the G and F clefs are used.[6]

[Footnote 6: The Germans use the same pitch designations as we do with

two exceptions, viz., our B is called by them H, and our B[flat] is

called B. The scale of C therefore reads: C, D, E, F, G, A, H, C; the

scale of F reads F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F. The signatures are in all cases

written exactly as we write them.

In France and Italy where the fixed DO system is in vogue, pitches are

usually referred to by the syllable names; e.g., C is referred to as

DO (or UT), D as RE, etc.]

17. The movable C clef or ,

formerly in very common use, is now utilized for only two purposes,

viz., (1) in music written for certain orchestral instruments (cello,

viola, etc.) of extended range, in order to avoid having to use too many

leger lines; and (2) for indicating the tenor part in vocal music. This

latter usage seems also to be disappearing however, and the tenor part

is commonly written on the treble staff, it being understood that the

tones are to be sung an octave lower than the notes would indicate.

The C clef as used in its various positions is shown in Figs. 7, 8, and

9. It will be noted that in each case the line on which the clef is

placed represents middle C.

18. A sharp is a character which causes the degree of the staff with

which it is associated to represent a pitch one half-step higher than it

otherwise would.

Thus in Fig. 10 (a) the fifth line and first space represent

the pitch F, but in Fig. 10 (b) these same staff degrees

represent an entirely different tone--F[sharp]. The student

should note that the sharp does not then raise anything; it

merely causes a staff degree to represent a higher tone than

it otherwise would. There is just as much difference between F

and F[sharp] as between B and C, and yet one would never think

of referring to C as B raised!

19. A flat is a character that causes the degree of the staff with

which it is associated to represent a tone one half-step lower than it

otherwise would. (See note under Sec. 18 and apply the same discussion


20. A double-sharp causes the staff degree on which it is placed to

represent a pitch one whole-step higher than it would without any sharp.

Similarly, a double-flat causes the staff degree on which it is placed

to represent a pitch one whole-step lower than it would without any


Double-sharps and double-flats are generally used on staff

degrees that have already been sharped or flatted, therefore

their practical effect is to cause staff degrees to represent

pitches respectively a half-step higher and a half-step lower

than would be represented by those same degrees in their

diatonic condition. Thus in Fig. 10 (b) the first space in

its diatonic condition[7] represents F-sharp, and the

double-sharp on this degree would cause it to represent a

pitch one-half step higher than F-sharp, i.e.,


[Footnote 7: The expression diatonic condition as here used refers to

the staff after the signature has been placed upon it, in other words

after the staff has been prepared to represent the pitches of the

diatonic scale.]