How to Read Music: Alto and Tenor Clefs

Alto and Tenor Clefs look sort of like an M on its side. And, they are most often used for viola music, but are occasionally used for other music. Alto clefs are always positioned to point to the center line, while tenor clefs can point to any line or space on the staff. When a tenor clef is used, the notes that correspond to each line and space depend entirely on the positioning of the clef. It is simple to read though, because the point on the clef always points to middle C.

So, on alto clef, as above, the lines would read, from bottom to top, FACEG. And, the spaces would read GBDF.

Why Use an Alto or Tenor Clef

The clefs are often used to avoid a lot of leisure lines. For instance, an instrument that can play well below the staff as well as above the staff is going to have a lot of leisure lines in either treble or bass clef. But, the alto clef (or tenor clef) is more centered in the middle of the instrument’s range.

It is not used as often as treble or bass clef, because treble and bass clef cover most instruments. But, alto and tenor clefs are a good option for ranges in the middle.

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How to Read Music

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