A clefs is the sign at the beginning of a staff which indicates the pitch of the notes on the staff. The G clef (treble clef) is used n the second staff line, which becomes the position for g’. The F clef (bass clef) is used on the 4th staff line, which becomes the position for f. The C clef has two positions: the alto/viola clef is used on the 3rd line, which becomes middle c, and the tenor clef is used on the 4th line, which becomes middle c.

Types of clefs

  • Treble, or G clef
    • The body always fills the 2 bottom spaces of the staff.
      Heads and tails vary from engraver to engraver.
  • Bass clef, or F clef
    • The ball of the clef always falls on the F line, and the 2 dots always are placed in the spaces above and below the F line.
  • C clef
    • The C clef is not often used anymore. The 2 versions of C clef is still in use are:
      • Alto clef
      • Tenor clef
  • Percussion clef


Clefs are usually indented 1/2 to 1 space from barline (9 to 18 EVPU’s).

Clef Changes

  • If the clef changes in the middle of a piece, use a clef 2 or 3 times smaller than usual.
  • If the clef change affects a whole measure, the small clef should be placed in front of the barline of that measure.

Ex. A

  • If the clef change continues onto the next system, the clef becomes regular size again.

Ex. B

  • The clef should be placed right in front of the first note in the new clef (there are a few exceptions).

Ex. C