Back to basics this month – just what are those squiggly things you find at the beginning of a musical stave?
Sharpen your stave skills with Dave’s guide to the clef
Take a look at any page of printed sheet music, and the first thing you’ll see at the start of each set of five lines (or ‘stave’) is a weird-looking squiggle that could be one of several possible shapes. These are called clefs, and the reason they exist is to let the player know which of the five horizontal lines on the stave corresponds to which notes when playing the music. Each clef represents a different range of notes, and allows all notes on the stave to be interpreted more easily at a glance.
You may wonder what relevance, if any, the clef symbols used in traditional notation have in relation to the music we make on our computers. It’s a fair point. If you’re making a dance track in Ableton or recording a multitrack in Logic, why would you need to know about clefs? Well, although the chances are that you could theoretically go through your entire music-making life without ever encountering one, clefs are pretty important things to know about if you ever intend to print out a score for a string or brass section when replacing computer-generated parts with real players. Or maybe you have some sheet music that you want to enter into your DAW in step time. Whatever the reason, if you want to improve your overall clefferness, read on…
DOWNLOAD Download the accompanying video and the MIDI/audio files at vault.computermusic.co.uk