The grand staff is a special name we give to the symbols that are used when piano players read music. In this article we’ll talk all about the grand staff and specifically the individual symbols that collectively makeup the grand staff. We’ll also discuss the specific function of each symbol and give you a few mnemonic devices (funny word, huh?) to help you memorize the notes of the grand staff.
The Grand Staff: Symbols
In music, a staff is simply 5 lines and 4 spaces. That’s it. A staff looks like this:
We can write notes on the various lines and spaces of a staff, but those notes don’t actually mean anything until we write a clef at the beginning of the staff. Once we write a clef, the notes on the various lines and spaces of the staff get a particular letter name.
When reading music at the piano, we usually see two different clefs: a treble clef and a bass clef.
Since piano players usually read both the treble clef and the bass clef at the same time, piano players need to get used to seeing two staves (the plural of “staff”) stacked on top of one another. The two staves are joined together by a scrolled bracket. These two staves together, with the treble clef on top and the bass clef on bottom, is what we call the grand staff.
The Grand Staff: Treble Clef
The treble clef is usually (but not always) located on the top staff and usually (but not always) played with the right hand. This clef gives the lines and spaces specific letter names that correspond to particular notes on the piano. Let’s first look at the notes that can be written on the spaces, of which there are four.
As you can see, the notes are named (from bottom space to top space) F, A , C, E, which spells the word “FACE.” This makes the note names of the treble clef spaces pretty easy to learn. But for the lines of the treble clef (of which there are 5), we need to use a mnemonic device. Since the note names of the lines do not spell a word, we invent a sentence in which each word begins with the name of the note.
For example, the names of the treble clef lines (from low to high) are E, G, B, D, F. That doesn’t spell anything, so we invent a mnemonic device – a sentence that reads: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.
The Grand Staff: Bass Clef
The bass clef is usually (but not always) located on the bottom staff and usually (but not always) played with the left hand. Let’s first look at the notes that can be written on the spaces:
In order to memorize these note-names, we memorize the sentence: All Cows Eat Grass = A, C, E, G.
Now let’s look at the lines of the bass clef:
In order to memorize the names of the bass clef lines, we memorize the sentence: Great Big Dogs Fight Animals = G, B, D, F, A.