Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Learn Musical Notes on the Staff

Practical tips to learn the basics of music reading

In this video, Robert gives you practical tips to start reading music notes on the music staff.

Released on September 2, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with the viewer question, "How do you learn the notes on the staff?" This is a really important thing when you're starting out in music to have any way of being able to read the music.

Well, you know there's a lot of different ways that people approach this, but one of the most popular is based upon acronyms. You've probably heard it before for the lines on the treble clef, from bottom to top, Every Good Boy Does Fine, for the E, G, B, D, F notes. And then the space is even easier. It spells the word "face" F, A, C, E. What about the bass clef? Well, there's an acronym for that; Good Boys Do Fine Always for the lines G, B, D, F, A. And then for the spaces, All Cows Eat Grass.

Well, what about ledger lines where they go above and below the staff? You could see that this system breaks down pretty quickly, gets very complicated being able to quickly ascertain a note. Well, fortunately there's a better way and it's much simpler, and it just has to do with the alphabet. In fact, this is simpler than that. It's just the first seven letters of the alphabet; A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

If you can learn to say those letters, frontwards and backwards, quickly, you will be on your way to mastering reading notes on the staff, on the grand staff, in both the treble and the bass clef. Here's how it works. Start with middle C because it is in the middle between the treble and bass clef notes. From there you go up to the alphabet, space to line, line to space; C, D, because A, B, C, D, E, F, G. There that's very easy, isn't it? But what do you do after you get to G? Remember, those are only seven letters you use. Start over the A and continue on, A, B, C, D, E, F, and it goes on and on even through ledger lines.

What about the bass clef? A lot of people complain the bass clef is difficult to read. It's not any harder than the treble clef, except you're going backwards, you're going down through the alphabet. So start again from the middle C between the two stabs, and what comes before C, well, A, B, C. So C, B, A, and before A well, nothing comes. What do you do? Start with the last letter of the musical alphabet, which is again G, and go down G, F, E, D, C, B, A.

I recommend, by the way, memorizing that low space A in the bass clef because it's much easier to count up through the alphabet than down. Throw in a couple of other key notes in the staff, and you'll be never more than a few notes, a few letter names, away from figuring out the notes. And the good news is, the more you do this, the better reader you will become. Never resort to writing in the notes because you won't learn them. Figure them out each and every time, and before you know it, you will be fluent in reading music on the grand staff. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Marge Shery * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @11:07 am PST
keep up the good work! Lot of students studying music are not being told this.
paul plak * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @10:32 am PST
Hi Robert, lots of comments from me today ... French speaking people have a tremendous advantage, being allowed to name the notes do-ré-mi-fa-sol-la-si. Just singing do-ré-mi is very easy, and indeed, the first thing the music teacher teaches you is to memorize the whole series upwards and downwards.
Now I even can't hear a single music note without hearing the corresponding do-ré-mi word in my head at the same time.
Another advantage is that "do" is the starting point, while "C" is the third note of the most simple major scale, quite awkward actually, but we're not going to get that changed by now ...
And you'll of course know do-ré-mi has made its way into some world famous songs as well.
Take care, and please go on with your interesting and fun videos. You're really very good at this.
christopher slevin * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @7:56 am PST
Very, very helpful. Those ledger notes drive me nuts. I'll try your system. Thank you!


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