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Why a Tenor Clef? Why can’t the score just change to Treble Clef?
I don’t know the purpose of confusing people with a tenor clef.
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cid
October 4, 2019 - 10:00 am
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First, I know the tenor clef is used to fill the gap between bass and treble with bass instruments so there are not a lot notes above the staff with the little short staff lines with the upper registers.

Second, I do not have a problem reading the tenor clef. It is really not difficult.

What I do not understand, and what I think of every time we switch to tenor clef, is why? Why couldn’t they just use treble clef? A piano just has treble and bass. Why, when you are using something that requires bass clef and the notes reach the upper registers, do they use a tenor clef, instead of just putting a treble clef on the staff to designate that section to be read as treble clef? 

It would do the same thing, would not require learning another clef, and thereby getting people confused. 

As long as I am asking this, the same thing would apply to alto clef. Why? Why? Why?

blurry_drunk-2127

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Gordon Shumway
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October 4, 2019 - 11:20 am
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At first I thought you meant alto clef. I had to go to Eric Taylor, appendix F to vol 2, p.xvi to see what a tenor clef was. You'll just have to suffer for your art, Cid!

Andrew

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cid
October 4, 2019 - 11:40 am
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@Gordon Shumway Yes, I will have to suffer. dazed

When I get back to my viola with its alto clef, I will get really confused! It really makes no sense to me. There has to be a reason. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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October 4, 2019 - 2:23 pm
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I compose a little, and when I've spoken with cellists, they almost all prefer tenor clef over treble clef except when playing in the extreme upper register.

The reason is that high passages, if written in treble clef, often dip low enough to require ledger lines below the staff. And changing back and forth between bass and treble quickly is awkward.

Alto clef works well for viola because the range is squarely between the treble and bass clefs. A viola part written in treble clef could go more than an octave below the staff. If written in treble and bass, it would require switching clefs constantly.

Choice of clefs should avoid the things most likely to cause confusion. What I hate the most is lots of ledger lines -- it's too easy to miscount them. The second-worst thing is switching clefs every few notes. So the goal with cello (which in fact uses treble clef as well) and viola (alto and treble clefs) is to minimize ledger lines without an unreasonable number of clef changes.

Historically, the C clef (alto and tenor) is actually the oldest clef. If you look at early written music in the medieval era and early Renaissance, everything is in C clefs.

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cid
October 4, 2019 - 3:09 pm
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Thank you for your excellent explanation. I don’t have a problem with the tenor clef, but it really puzzled me. I could see the ledger lines behind the staff in those middle notes between bass and clef when reading your explanation. I couldn’t picture it before.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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October 4, 2019 - 4:35 pm
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As long as the clefs being used are all commonly used for the instrument, it works fine.

But musicians do get annoyed when they have to read a clef they almost never see. Trombonists dislike Schumann because he (and hardly anyone else) tended to write high trombone parts in alto clef; they're used to reading bass and tenor.

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cid
October 4, 2019 - 4:45 pm
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The more I use it, the more natural it will become, and probably easier to spot when I run into it in the music. My next lesson song will,go,back and forth. Will be good practice. That won’t be for a couple weeks. It is actually fun learning all of these new things. I just couldn’t figure put why. I was not picturing it in my mind correctly. 

Thank you.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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cid
October 21, 2019 - 7:59 am
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Tenor clef is becoming more natural now. I have been switching a little more between tenor and bass in one song. It is beginning to pop out more when I come to the different clef notations. I still miss one here and there. It is immediately noticed when the note is wrong! It is quite fun. 

I wish music theory was covered a little deeper in school. Seventh grade was it. Good ol’ Mr Hack! He loved Blood Sweat and Tears, and I did, too. Every time I listen to “Spinning Wheel” I think of him and my 7th grade music class. I loved the little bit of music theory we did in that class. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 28, 2019 - 10:11 pm
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AndrewH said
The reason is that high passages, if written in treble clef, often dip low enough to require ledger lines below the staff. And changing back and forth between bass and treble quickly is awkward.

Alto clef works well for viola because the range is squarely between the treble and bass clefs. A viola part written in treble clef could go more than an octave below the staff. If written in treble and bass, it would require switching clefs constantly.

Choice of clefs should avoid the things most likely to cause confusion. What I hate the most is lots of ledger lines -- it's too easy to miscount them. The second-worst thing is switching clefs every few notes. So the goal with cello (which in fact uses treble clef as well) and viola (alto and treble clefs) is to minimize ledger lines without an unreasonable number of clef changes.

Historically, the C clef (alto and tenor) is actually the oldest clef. If you look at early written music in the medieval era and early Renaissance, everything is in C clefs.

For some reason I haven't been getting new posts in my admin postbag, but special thanks to Andrew for giving great explanations 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cid
November 28, 2019 - 10:39 pm
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I think the song we are dong in my cello lessons now is a food example of what Andrew stated. 

We are doing Vocalise by Rachmaninoff. Lovely pice in tenor clef. At the vey end it switches to treble clef for the last 2 or 3 measures. After reading Andrew’s explanation again, i could see where there would have been a lot of ledger lines for those upper notes. 

What surprised me with this song was that I was able to switch gears when reaching that treble clef and actually played the right notes. It went up to E on the A string and then back down to the E an octave lower. It did the E an octave lower while still using treble clef,meid,not switch back to Tenor. I think that was because they were the last two measures.

I am enjoying usng the different clefs and learning them. Your explanation helped @AndrewH Thank you.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Gordon Shumway
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November 29, 2019 - 2:18 am
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I thought I posted something about flutes here? They seem to get used to lots of ledger lines. And some violin music is probably full of them.

I can't remember how many you get in piano music. But for those who are afraid of them, you don't really count them. Once you are in key and in the right place and playing a melody, what you actually do is detect when the melody is ascending a tone, when descending, and so on.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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November 29, 2019 - 5:06 am
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Gordon Shumway said
I thought I posted something about flutes here? They seem to get used to lots of ledger lines. And some violin music is probably full of them.

I can't remember how many you get in piano music. But for those who are afraid of them, you don't really count them. Once you are in key and in the right place and playing a melody, what you actually do is detect when the melody is ascending a tone, when descending, and so on.

  

 

That only works as long as the intervals are small. If you're playing viola and you have two beats of rest to jump about two octaves up to the D above the treble clef, you really don't want to still be reading that in alto clef. You'd be going from the middle of the alto clef staff all the way to five ledger lines at once. That's when a switch to treble clef helps immensely.

(Encountered that in February. Julia Perry, Study for Orchestra. There's a similar leap of almost 2 octaves to C above the treble clef in Carlos Chavez's Sinfonia India, which I played in November 2018 -- at least that leap is in slow tempo, but it would still not be fun to read in alto clef.)

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