Learning How To Read Music Notes For Beginners: Getting The Basics

Learning how to read music notes for beginners can seem like an impossible task. If you have never read any type of music it will seem like a foreign language. It is important to learn how to read music in bite size pieces.

In todays post I will show you the the basics of music notation. After reading this post you should have a better understanding of how music is organized. The following concepts will be discussed:

  • The Staff
  • The clefs
  • The notes and note names

Before starting to read music one needs to know how music is represented on the page. The music staff is the foundation for all music. It is here that the notes are placed to show there pitch and duration (duration will be discussed in a later post).

The Staff

The staff is a set of five horizontal lines placed above each other. The notes are place on the lines or in the spaces of the music staff to represent a different pitch. The higher the notes are placed on the staff the higher the pitch. These notes are read from left to right. Below you will find an image of the the basic staff without notes or a clef.

Music Staff

Regardless of the instrument you play, you will read music using a staff like the one above. However, if you are reading music for non-pitched percussion instruments the notes will be replaced with symbols to represent a particular instrument. I will discuss reading percussion music in a later post.

Simply placing notes on the staff like the one above still doesn’t give the musician a whole lot of information as to what note they are to play. The next symbol or feature you will find is the clef.

The Clef

The clef is placed at the beginning of the staff to indicate the pitch of the written notes. The most common clefs used in music is the treble clef and the bass clef.

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is also known as the G clef because the line passing through the curl is known as the note G. From here we can determine what notes are placed on all the other lines and spaces of the staff. Please refer to the image below.

Treble Clef

Some of the instruments most commonly written in the treble clef are:

  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Saxophone
  • oboe
  • trumpet
  • french horn
  • guitar
  • bells
  • etc.

You will notice that I left the piano out. I will get to that one shortly.

The Bass Clef

The bass clef is also known as the F-clef because the line that passes through the two dots of the bass clef will always be the note F. Like the treble clef, this determines what notes are placed on all the other lines and spaces of the staff. Refer to the image below.

Bass Clef

Some instruments most commonly written in the bass clef are:

  • Bass Guitar
  • Tuba
  • Trombone
  • Timpani
  • Bassoon

You will probably noticed that higher pitched instruments are placed in the treble clef and lower pitched instruments are placed in the bass clef. You may now also be asking:

what about the piano? 

The piano is not only capable of playing many notes but it is also capable of playing notes from both clefs, thus its music is written on what is called the grand staff. The grand staff consists of two staffs. The top staff is for the treble clef and the bottom staff is for the bass clef. Refer to the image below to better understand this concept.

Grand Staff


The Notes and Note Names

The notes are place on the lines or in the spaces of the staff. Refer to the images below.

Note in a space

Note on a line

The musical alphabet consists of the first 7 letters of the alphabet.


These letters are simply repeated as we climb the staff.

Now lets determine where all the notes go and how we can remember them. As mentioned earlier, music is like language and will take time to learn. As you begin to play your instrument you will be able to read these notes without even thinking about it. But for now I will provide some easy sayings to remember the lines and spaces of both the treble and bass clef.

The Notes of the Treble Clef

The Lines

Lines of the treble clef

To remember these lines I often use the following saying:

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

The Spaces:

Treble Clef Spaces

The easiest way to remember the spaces of the treble clef is to remember they spell the word “FACE”.

The Notes of the Bass Clef

The Lines:

Lines of the bass clef

I use the following saying to remember the lines of the bass clef:

Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always

The Spaces:

Spaces of the bass clef

A saying to remember the spaces of the bass clef:

All Cows Eat Grass

Thats My First Guide To How To Read Music Notes for Beginners

If you have read this entire post you have learned the very basics to reading music notes. As you can see it is much easier to break the whole process down into tiny pieces. In this post you have learned about the staff, the clefs and the placement of notes on the staff for each of these clefs. The next step in the process is to learn how the notes are organized within the staff. This will be the next post in this series of posts regarding how to read music.

If you have any questions at all I ask that you leave a comment below. It is also fun to hear how others remember the lines and spaces. There are many different sayings used all over the world. Please share these sayings in the comment section below. I truly hope you have learned something today.


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