in music, a symbol placed upon a staff to indicate the name and pitch of notes corresponding to its lines and spaces (either treble, alto/viola, tenor, or bass), also called a clavis key

In teaching my students the clefs I use what may be a suspect etymology, which Webster 1913 hints at. But it is, nevertheless, reasonably effective.

As French is a common second, or even first language in Canada, I tell my students that the clef is the key to unlocking the names of the lines and spaces. The French for this is cle or clef, as in roman a clef;.

I also tell them, as Webster 1913 points out, that the clefs are probably corruptions or modifications of the letters C, F, and G. They don't usually believe it. Would you?

In the word cle there is a rising accent on the e, and in roman a clef there is a falling accent on the a.

But legbagede and his node Special Alt key characters & accents notwithstanding, I cannot make the accents work with my OS and browser (now Windows ME, and I.E. 5.5). So, I'm stuck.

Also, a nickname for Wyclef Jean, Haitian rap artist who began with the Fugees before going on to his own solo projects.

He, along with those who allude to him, often refer to him as 'Clef' in rap lyrics. One example is when his fellow Fugee Praswell says to him:
"Clef I got the cash...lets jet town like Harlem Nights!" in the track 'Cowboys' on their second album, 'The Score'.

Clef [F. clef key, a key in music, fr. L. clavis key. See Clavicle.] Mus.

A character used in musical notation to determine the position and pitch of the scale as represented on the staff.

⇒ The clefs are three in number, called the C, F, and G clefs, and are probably corruptions or modifications of these letters. They indicate that the letters of absolute pitch belonging to the lines upon which they are placed, are respectively C, F, and G. The F or bass clef, and the G or treble clef, are fixed in their positions upon the staff. The C clef may have three positions. It may be placed upon the first or lower line of the staff, in which case it is called soprano clef, upon the third line, in which case it called alto clef, or upon the fourth line, in which case tenor clef. It rarely or never is placed upon the second line, except in ancient music. See other forms of C clef under C, 2.

Alto clef, Bass clef. See under Alto, Bass.


© Webster 1913.

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