How do YOU read clefs?
In an hour I will head out for a morning session of string quartets - I think it's going to be a lot of Dvorak this morning and I'll be playing cello. I think we will be doing Op. 34 and 51 (which are both new to me) and Op. 96 (the American) which we did a couple of weeks ago. There are difficult clef adjustments for the cellist in most Dvorak editions. So to warm up I just read through some of my old violin music (Gluck's Melodie as "Dvorak" treble clef) and also the first movement of the Telemann Viola Concerto (alto clef).- - I'd never actually attempted alto clef on cello before - but I did OK.
The mental gymnastics this required (as well as the current thread here on alto clef) lead me to wonder again (as I long have, but have never asked) how other players read their music. That is, how do you translate the notes on a clef to positions on the strings. Do you go through the name (A-B-C or do-re-me) intermediary steps or do you go directly from clef position to fingerboard position(s)? How about those of you who play multiple instruments as I do - what is your conscious process?
I was just doing this last night (reading alto clef) and concluded that I read as note names and use intervals. I have to say that treble to alto isn't so bad, but I do periodically have violin moments when playing viola.
I have to put in front that I usually dont play any other instrument than violin, piano or c flute. So I usually only read the two keys.
I learned them like how I learned to read the treble clef when I was 5: practice naming the notes on the lines of the staff. I learned all the clefs by heart by the age of 17 -- all the G clefs, C clefs and the F clefs. They are all very natural to me, because this is how I transpose in my brain.
I use the memory of where a note is on any given string, and go from there via intervals and leaps (if shifting) to work out where the fingers will be on any note in the new position across and on all the strings.
After a few years of piano, I just learned the new (alto) clef with the new instrument. But being a lazy fellow, I still like reading the C-clef straight onto the piano, and then play by ear!
Usually with the help of a pair of spectacles ...
For Treble clef, up to E6 above the staff on sight, and down to D3 below the staff. This is from guitar. Anything above the E requires a bit of processing because I'm just not used to reading the notes up there.
The way I learned the Alto clef was to learn the notes representing 4 strings: C, G, D and A.
Former trombone player here. Trombonists have to deal with bass, tenor, and alto clefs regularly, as well as the occasional treble clef (usually in British band music).
Wow. Trombone etudes for the cello. Now THAT is something I have not seen before on violinist.com!!! Great idea, Madeye.
My preference is CSO trombonist Michael Mulcahey's tenor clef transcriptions of the Bordogni (Rochut) vocalises.
Violin beginner here (I've had lessons in the trumpet and piano in the past and I'm active as a choir bass). Mentally, I seem to translate positions on the staff directly to finger positions, skipping the note names. I still associate notes with trumpet fingerings and occasionally with piano keyboard "feeling". When my teacher mentions that the "sol" is out of tune and that I need to move my 2nd finger, I have to do a lot of mental gymnastics: sol = g = note on top of the staff = middle finger on E string = 3rd finger in piano counting = 2nd finger in violin counting...
I make the pitch correspond with it's place on the instrument.
I don't mind reading bass cef on the viola if the notes can be played at original pitch, but my brain jams at octave transpositions.
Learn new clefs the same way you learned your first (treble?) clef;
I've heard of the various tricks that involve thinking of a new clef in terms of the one you're familiar with. But in the end I found it easier to just think of the new clef as something brand-new, and get to know it on its own terms. (I went from violin to viola.) I found it useful to learn where the open strings are, and in alto clef middle C is a gimme - it's the middle line. After that, it was just a matter of working with it; after a couple of weeks I was finding my way around without too much trouble, and it just got smoother from there. Changing clefs in the middle of a piece was a bit scary at first, but it's not as bad as it looks. (I still wish composers wouldn't do gratuitous clef changes, though.)
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