In this article we’ll be exploring and learning to memorize the notes of the grand staff at the piano. This is a hugely important, foundation skill that you will use for the entirety of your musical journey. And as a pianist, you’re uniquely lucky (and challenged). Consider that most instruments read in only one clef, treble or bass. But as a pianist, YOU are required to read in both clefs simultaneously. Don’t be nervous, this is a fun and easy skill that you can practice over time. It does not need to be learned all at once. And what’s best is that you actually do not need to be at the piano in order to practice this skill. Let get started!
The Notes of the Grand Staff: Components of the Grand Staff
The first thing to understand is that the grand staff is the music notation that we read from, as pianists, that includes both the treble clef and the bass clef. The treble clef is usually on top and the bass clef is usually on bottom. To the left of the treble and bass clef is a swirly bracket stretching across both clefs. This bracket is meant to indicate that the treble and bass clef are meant to be read simultaneously by one instrument (here, the piano). The lines and spaces to the right of the treble and bass clef are the individual locations where notes can be written (a note can be written on either a line or space).
The Notes of the Grand Staff: Treble Clef
On each clef there are 5 lines and 4 spaces where notes can be written. Memorizing the spaces of the treble clef is easy because they spell the word “FACE” going from low to high:
In order to memorize the lines of the treble clef we use a mnemonic device: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge:
The Notes of the Grand Staff: Bass Clef
Unfortunately, the lines and spaces of the bass clef do not spell a word, so we use two different mnemonic devices for the bass clef. For the spaces, we use the following sentence: All Cows Eat Grass.
In order to memorize the lines of the bass clef we use another sentence: Great Big Dogs Fight Animals.
When we look at the grand staff in total, we see the same seven notes repeated over and over again in alphabetical order:
The Notes of the Grand Staff: Middle ‘C’ and Leger Lines
A little quick math: there are 88 notes on the piano, but the grand staff only shows 18 notes – 5 lines and 4 spaces on each staff. Where are those other 70 notes written? Well, we can add in additional lines and spaces through the use of leger lines. If we want to write notes below the lowest ‘G’ of the bass clef we write in lines to reach the desired note. The same thing can be done above the treble clef.
Also, middle ‘C,’ which is approximately in the middle of the keyboard, is represented on the grand staff as either one leger line above the bass clef or one leger line below the treble clef.