Pitch: The Highness or Lowness of a Sound
In music, we identify pitches by placing noteheads on a musical staff. A notehead is the oval section of a note and it can look like any of these examples:
The section on rhythm will go into much greater detail on the durations represented by notes.
The staff consists of 5 parallel lines. The plural of the word staff is staves.
Pitches are named using the first seven letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
On the far left hand side of every staff is a clef. There are several different kinds of clefs, but the two most frequently used are the treble clef (also called the G clef) and the bass clef (also called the F clef).
The treble clef:
The bass clef:
Pitches are indicated by noteheads that either occur on the middle of a line on the staff, or in a space between two lines.
The clef determines the names of the pitches on the staff. Here is an interactive example of the grand staff, which consists of a treble clef and bass clef staff. The higher a note is on the staff, the higher its pitch is. The lower a note is on a staff, the lower its pitch is. Point to a note to see its name. Click on a note to hear what it sounds like when played by a piano.
The meeting point between the two clefs is the pitch middle C. On the treble clef, it is the C that occurs just below the staff. On the bass clef, it is the C that occurs just above the staff. Middle C occurs in the middle of a piano keyboard.
Middle C in the treble clef staff:
Middle C in the bass clef staff:
Notice that there is something different in these examples. They both include ledger lines. Pitches that are higher or lower than the staff, include short horizontal lines which are called ledger lines.
Visit the practice page for exercises and assignments on the aspects of sound, and how to write noteheads.