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Hi, I am a self teaching adult beginner who got his piano about one month ago with zero experience. I want to learn some pieces from sheet music. And I want to play some of my favorite songs. (Good for motivation grin.) Now I got my hands on Forrest Gump Feather Theme and the first notes didn't sound right. Until I had a closer look at the base line: It is written in treble clef instead of base clef. Many lines later, the sheet music switches to treble/base clef and then back to treble/treble again. I started to "translate" the entire sheet to treble/base notation. Just for fun. And for becoming familiar with score writing software...

Can anyone explain WHY Alan Silvestri wrote the sheet music in treble/treble clef for piano, please? confused I am sure there is a good reason to do so, but I simply don't get it (yet).


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I assume it's because if he used the bass clef for the left hand he'd have to use an inordinate amount of ledger lines. If the LH is playing mostly notes from middle C and above then its much easier to read and write them if the treble clef is used.

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Because during the first (and last) part the left hand plays completely in the treble range. The lowest note in the first part is G4, which would require 3 ledger lines. Everything else requires even more lines. It is much more convenient - and easier to read - to switch clefs instead of writing everything in base clef.

The middle part is lower so it makes sense to write it in base clef.

There are no special rules about having the base clef and the treble clef in the grand staff. It just happens that (for piano) these are the most convenient clefs to use most of the time.


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Because the left hand notes are so high up that he would need a ton of helping lines to make them visible, making the whole thing hard to read. In this case composers sometimes switch the left hand to the treble clef. Also happens a lot in classical music, Für Elise beeing a very well known example. There it happens mid score that he switches the left hand to treble clef.

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Lovely choice of music.

It’s on my list of things I want to play in the future.

I do Piano Marvel and luckily there are 2 versions (levels 4 and 6) in their library so when the time comes, I’ll be able to tackle the easier version first.


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If you look at duet music for the piano (one piano, four hands) both people are sitting next to each other at the same piano.

Much of that music is written so that the person sitting on the left (bass) side reads and plays notes written for the bass clef...both clefs are bass.

And the person sitting on the right (treble) side plays music that is mostly written for the treble clef...both clefs are treble.


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Just think, back in Baroque music, they just used movable clefs (C-clef) and it wasn't only the "tenor" and "alto" clefs we are used to seeing today. smile

Shudders. Back in college we had to read four-part scores like that. I never did understand why...other than our professors to "flex", I guess. Or maybe because they had to struggle through it, so we did, too?


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Hey Tom
Did you realize there is an Easy Piano arrangement? Just a thought. I think you will be able to learn it quicker (for now) and have a goal accomplished. The original will be waiting for you

https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0065932


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Bavaria Tom, congratulations on starting your piano journey!

You've already gotten comments about the treble clef/bass clef issue, but just know that it happens a lot! And just as often, the RH part might be written in the bass clef, when both hands are consistently playing below middle c.


It can be frustrating if it's overlooked at first, and it can be easy to miss even for more advanced players and a lot of people write a star over the score where the clef changes.

So do yourself a favor, and work on using the music as written (with the LH treble clef and then the switch down to bass clef) so that you will be more comfortable with this kind of notation.

Good luck!!


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Couldn't move my childhood piano out of the house when I moved. New owners took down a wall for "open concept" and put it on the street with a free sign on the music desk.

Had to bet a DP to ease my conscience. Shares the room with other stringed instruments. Very happy with the technology, it's like having my old friend back.

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Just a different view on treble and bass clef:

Your score is a map of the music that can be played. The piano is the whole country which covers the very low notes to the very high notes. If a score tried to cover all those notes in one clef, you would have a gazillion ledger lines. So the treble and bass clefs each cover a "region" of notes. It's actually sort of interesting to map this. Put your hand on the G to A of the bass clef, and the E to F on the treble clef (both in the sense of bottom to top line, not adjacent notes), and look at what you have. Those are the "regions" covered by the two clefs. It's extended by ledger lines and 8va. Now look at the vast amount of piano that isn't covered.

And what happens if both hands are playing way above the area covered by the bass clef? Some beginner books mistakenly tell us that the bass clef is the "left hand" clef, and the treble is the clef for the right hand. That is not actually true. The clefs simply cover regions. However, since our left hand is on our left, and the right hand is on our right, when there's a bass clef and a treble clef in piano music, most of the time we'll be playing bass clef (covering a left region) with the left hand, etc.

If the music is in other regions of the piano, clefs will vary as in your experience.

(Hope this isn't clear as mud.)

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Originally Posted by keystring
Some beginner books mistakenly tell us that the bass clef is the "left hand" clef, and the treble is the clef for the right hand. That is not actually true.
But not necessarily a bad thing to tell beginners since the music they play from method books will follow that rule for quite a while. One can assume the authors of the books knew they were simplifying things for a beginner.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by keystring
Some beginner books mistakenly tell us that the bass clef is the "left hand" clef, and the treble is the clef for the right hand. That is not actually true.
But not necessarily a bad thing to tell beginners since the music they play from method books will follow that rule for quite a while. One can assume the authors of the books knew they were simplifying things for a beginner.


The problem is when a beginning student decides to learn a piece that is rated at Grades way above level one, like now. Then there needs to be a more complete explanation.


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Music can overlap too, if that's the right way to express it.

I've been fooling around with this a bit lately: https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ReverseLookup/370008

Mars has a lot of stuff with two bass clefs and both hands kind of on top of each other. Which, for me at least, isn't particularly easy thing to do.

But it's sure a cool-sounding piano arrangement!


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by keystring
Some beginner books mistakenly tell us that the bass clef is the "left hand" clef, and the treble is the clef for the right hand. That is not actually true.
But not necessarily a bad thing to tell beginners since the music they play from method books will follow that rule for quite a while. One can assume the authors of the books knew they were simplifying things for a beginner.
I disagree for a number of reasons.

First, when you learn a thing is a certain thing, and it's not, then you have to unlearn it. Since it is incorrect information it can cause confusion in between. It is not correct that the bass clef is the LH and the treble clef is the RH. Meanwhile, I've had to undo incorrect "knowledge" due to this, and it did cause mischief.

Not all teachers do this with beginners (restrict music to these two clefs) and maybe for that reason. And then, some early books for beginners actually have both hands learning only treble clef for a while, both hands bass clef for a while, then mix it up. In this way, at least no association is formed between clefs and hands. (A bit like associating fingers and notes - which is not good).

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That’s an interesting question concerning how much harm can you do if you simplify concepts for beginners.

I remember chemistry class when we learnt about chemical bonding we first drew ions with smiley faces and holding hands with each other although no one believed this was the correct version, later on we learnt that electrons were shared and drew pictures of subatomic particles orbiting nuclei like planets, then later we were told this wasn’t exactly how it worked.

In the case of bass clef = LH, I don’t think this is too dramatic and can be fixed with “not always”.

One thing that I did find very difficult to get over when I was learning, was black notes = sharps and flats. I thought they were the same notes just spelled differently due to musical grammar. When I learned they were different notes but occupying the same space due to the compromises of Western musical theory and instrument construction things such as E sharp made more sense.

Things should be simplified as much as possible, but no further.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by keystring
Some beginner books mistakenly tell us that the bass clef is the "left hand" clef, and the treble is the clef for the right hand. That is not actually true.
But not necessarily a bad thing to tell beginners since the music they play from method books will follow that rule for quite a while. One can assume the authors of the books knew they were simplifying things for a beginner.
I disagree for a number of reasons.

First, when you learn a thing is a certain thing, and it's not, then you have to unlearn it. Since it is incorrect information it can cause confusion in between. It is not correct that the bass clef is the LH and the treble clef is the RH. Meanwhile, I've had to undo incorrect "knowledge" due to this, and it did cause mischief.

Not all teachers do this with beginners (restrict music to these two clefs) and maybe for that reason. And then, some early books for beginners actually have both hands learning only treble clef for a while, both hands bass clef for a while, then mix it up. In this way, at least no association is formed between clefs and hands. (A bit like associating fingers and notes - which is not good).


I’m fairly certain the ancient method books my teacher used started with LH = bass. At some point, playing both hands in one clef was introduced. I don’t think I was any worse or confused by this addition. It did not require unlearning, just an addition to what was previously taught. Guess we are all different in the flexibility we adapt to ‘flexible rules’. ‘ It is xxx, but not always’ seemed to work for me.


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Originally Posted by NordWest
....
I remember chemistry class when we learnt about chemical bonding we first drew ions with smiley faces and holding hands with each other ....
Are you saying they don't? Nooooooo! shocked shocked shocked

I'm crushed.


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Originally Posted by NordWest
That’s an interesting question concerning how much harm can you do if you simplify concepts for beginners.

I remember chemistry class when we learnt about chemical bonding we first drew ions with smiley faces and holding hands with each other although no one believed this was the correct version, later on we learnt that electrons were shared and drew pictures of subatomic particles orbiting nuclei like planets, then later we were told this wasn’t exactly how it worked.
I am all about introducing concepts to beginners in a way they can grasp them, by getting to their essence, which your teacher did in chemistry. So I agree with you. What you did was sort of a pictorial metaphor of what's going on. Actually, my explanation with "geographic regions" was also that kind of pictorial metaphor. ---- (a thought at this point: that my one comment about LH = bass clef has jumped out, and my actual explanation may not even be read.)

I believe quite strongly in presenting concepts to beginners in a reachable simple way. I have worked as a trained teacher at the primary level (aka formative years) where that is our main job. I've also tutored older students who were struggling, and often those struggles were due to poor foundations, because they were given shortcuts and tricks for passing tests when younger, and didn't grasp basic concepts in a real way.

Basic concepts are the hardest to teach, tricky to teach well - there are in that stead, shortcuts - in music, ways to 'get at playing pieces as fast as possible' at the cost of a grasp of the concepts correctly.
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In the case of bass clef = LH, I don’t think this is too dramatic and can be fixed with “not always”.
The "not always" improves the situation. But unlike your chemistry example, it also does not give the concept of the clefs. It gives a "quick trick" for playing. Music is not my teaching specialization. But since I am interested in pedagogy I've talked to / worked with some teachers in depth and this fallacy is one thing that they have to work to undo. bass = LH is an actual concept, and it is incorrect. You should not tie hands to clefs, just like you should not tie letters to fingers. It builds an association which is physical as well as mental.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on what I presented in my earlier post, where I presented a concept of clefs. This is getting lost.

Quote
One thing that I did find very difficult to get over when I was learning, was black notes = sharps and flats. I thought they were the same notes just spelled differently due to musical grammar. When I learned they were different notes but occupying the same space due to the compromises of Western musical theory and instrument construction things such as E sharp made more sense.
Fortunately, that's one I wasn't given, and I balked at the words "sharping" and "flatting" the first time I saw that use. I perceived them as "raised" and "lowered" (like higher & lower sounds) which worked for me since music has always been sound first for me.

In my journey I later got introduced to the idea of accidentals as traffic signs saying "go right" and "go left" by way of teaching beginners. Thus they only have the notes on the stiff vis-a-vis the white piano keys, and then "left" or "right". I found this very effective and switched to it. Among other things, it erases the dichotomy where the same black key is Bb or A#.

The students of the teacher who teaches this way are reading music with black keys very early, within weeks or a few months. They are also reading music where the clefs do switcheroos, going all over the keyboard, within the first year. What is behind it is getting at actual concepts, and finding ways of teaching them. When I tested out pianos a few years ago, the sales person was a piano teacher. The music I'd brought with me had the words "easy version" on it. She exclaimed "Easy version? Look at all those flats!" (piece in C minor - 4 flats)

Quote
Things should be simplified as much as possible, but no further.

I agree. I don't know if the distinction between "shortcut" and "simplified in an accessible way", if I managed to bring that across. Being able to simplify in a way that gets at the essence of a concept, that is not so easy. But when done well, makes everything appear easy. The chemistry class sounds absolutely brilliant!

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I found your long explanation of clefs too complicated to be clearly understood by many beginners. Think about how you were taught math. You learned 2 x2 = 4. And you thought that was absolute. Were you able to adapt when you learned 2x -2 = -4? I bet you did.


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