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A clef (French: clef "key") is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes.[1] Placed on one of the lines at the beginning of the staff, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on that line. This line serves as a reference point by which the names of the notes on any other line or space of the staff may be determined.

There are three types of clef used in modern music notation: F, C, and G. Each type of clef assigns a different reference note to the line on which it is placed.

Once one of these clefs has been placed on one of the lines of the staff, the other lines and spaces can be read in relation to it.

The use of three different clefs makes it possible to write music for all instruments and voices, even though they may have very different tessituras (that is, even though some sound much higher or lower than others). This would be difficult to do with only one clef, since the modern staff has only five lines, and the number of pitches that can be represented on the staff, even with ledger lines, is not nearly equal to the number of notes the orchestra can produce. The use of different clefs for different instruments and voices allows each part to be written comfortably on the staff with a minimum of ledger lines. To this end, the G-clef is used for high parts, the C-clef for middle parts, and the F-clef for low parts - with the important exception of transposing parts, which are written at a different pitch than they sound, often even in a different octave.


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