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Thread: Different Clefs: Tenor and Alto

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    Default Different Clefs: Tenor and Alto

    There are two tenor clefs: one looks like the alto clef, but it leaves an empty space; the other uses the treble clef and (I think) marks the lower octave with an eight below the clef. There are two clefs for alto as well: one is the alto clef itself, while the other is simply a treble clef, probably for vocal music. Are these the differences?

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    Senior Member DaddyGeorge's Avatar
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    I have to admit I don't fully understand your question. Hopefully this link will help you.
    clefs

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    DaddyGeorge's link leads to all the information you might need. Here is a short summary of the bit that addresses your direct questions:
    The tenor and alto clefs are C clefs, indicating where middle C is. The treble clef with the 8 below indicates that the notes sound an octave below where they do with a standard treble clef. Today it's used primarily in vocal music, as in the music for tenors. The tenor C clef today is used primarily for the upper registers of instruments like the bassoon and cello when continuing to write in bass clef would result in too many leger lines.

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    Junior Member camus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A1B2C3 View Post
    There are two tenor clefs: one looks like the alto clef, but it leaves an empty space; the other uses the treble clef and (I think) marks the lower octave with an eight below the clef. There are two clefs for alto as well: one is the alto clef itself, while the other is simply a treble clef, probably for vocal music. Are these the differences?
    I think I could see what confused you here: clefs and vocal parts.
    So there are three types of clefs: G clef (treble), F clef (bass) and C clef (alto or tenor). The C clef that falls in the middle of the staff (third line) is also called Alto clef, and the one above (fourth line), which you refer to as leaving an 'empty space' is called Tenor clef.
    Now vocal parts: alto voice could use two clefs: treble and alto. Viola also uses treble and alto. Tenor voice could use tenor, or treble with an 8 to indicate an octave lower. Instruments that use tenor clef include cello and bassoon.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaddyGeorge View Post
    I have to admit I don't fully understand your question. Hopefully this link will help you.
    clefs
    This link is great!

    I've been playing for over 50 years, and never knew that the G and F clefs were moveable. Of course, as a pianist/guitarist, we NEVER have to deal with moveable clefs, notably the C clef.

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    Thank the lord that music notation has evolved in the past 200 years so that some of these odd clefs have gone by the wayside. I remember well sitting at a piano in a conducting seminar and being ordered to play the vocal parts of the Beethoven 9th. Notice all four voices are in different clefs. As a 22 year-old I had that deer in the headlights moment. The maestro was not happy.
    Beet9.jpg

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    I've learnt 4 clefs fluently, the tenor and alto along with G and F...that does me fine. Unless one is going to study early vocal music, I wouldn't recommend wasting time on the soprano C clef position. As Edward says above, the tenor and alto clefs are used in and are essential to orchestration. They are well worth the effort to become totally fluent in. There is an added bonus in learning the tenor clef in that it aids in the reading of B flat transposition too. The G clefs with octave signifiers are still used for piccolo and other octave transposing instruments as well as in vocal music. One can even specify a double octave transposition (written as 15ma) above a G clef for a glockenspiel part in order to save on ledger lines.

    Your tale made me smile @mbhaub as I remember 4 part harmony exercises that I had to produce using the clef configuration of the Beethoven.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Apr-20-2020 at 08:44.

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    EdwardBast's reply is correct and clear.

    If you want to revise your knowledge about clefs you can also watch these videos:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...FqWVJzwgxWZJbT

    It is a playlist including 4 videos on clefs. They aim to answer typical questions such as what clefs are, why they are important, how to write them, what is the difference between them, and how to read and write the notes in all 7 clefs.

    I hope this is useful.

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