A clef is a symbol placed at the beginning of a piece of music to indicate the arrangement of pitches on the staff. Typically part of the cleff corresponds with a specific line of the staff. Different clefs are used for different instruments. The clef chosen is based on the range of the instrument and the ease of reading the music in that clef versus another. Some instruments may use more than one clef to limit the number of ledger lines required.

Treble Clef

Guitar music is notated in treble clef. It is also known as the G clef because of the line that curves around the G on the second line of the staff.

Treble clef

Other Clefs

Treble clef is the only clef used for guitar, but it is useful to know how to read in other clefs. Many instruments use clefs other than treble clef. Much of this music is useful for study and can be transcribed for guitar.

Bass Clef

Bass clef is also know as the F clef because the two dots surround the fourth line, which is an F.

Bass clef

Notes on the Lines in Bass Clef

Notes on the lines in bass clef read G B D F A from bottom to top. These notes are often remembered with the mnemonic device Good Boys Do Fine Always.

The notes on the lines of the bass staff.

Notes on the spaces in Bass Clef

The spaces are A C E G. The phrase All Cows Eat Grass is a way of remembering the order of the notes.

The notes on the spaces of the bass staff.

Movable C Clefs

There are a number of clefs that use the same symbol, but on different lines of the staff. The C clef indicates the location of middle C based on the line on which the clef appears. The two halves of the clef curve inward at the middle and this specifies that middle C is on that line.

Movable C clef

Although the C clef can be positioned on any line, it is most commonly used on the third and fourth line.

Alto Clef

The C clef is known as alto clef when placed on the third line. Alto clef is most frequently used for viola.

Alto clef

Tenor Clef

The C clef is called the tenor clef when it is placed on the fourth line. This clef is used for cello, trombone, and other instruments. Most instruments that use this clef also use other clefs, usually bass clef. The tenor clef is generally used in passages that would require excessive ledger lines in bass clef.

Tenor clef

Percussion Clef

The percussion clef is used for notating percussion instruments of indefinite pitch. Each line and space corresponds to a certain instrument. The arrangements of instruments on the staff depends on the instruments used in a given piece. The arrangement of the lines and spaces will be indicated at the beginning of the work.

Percussion clef