Do you still get confused when you’re staring at the lines and spaces on the music staff? Here’s a little tutorial to put any ignorance, doubt, and second-guessing to rest.

And, okay, so I’m a nerd. I actually like teaching this to my students, because we get to be silly and it’s just fun!

Here’s a simple chart to help you learn little “cheater ways” to remember the lines and spaces for both clefs:

These are the classic, elementary school music lesson ways to remember them, but they still work great for me, some 40+ years since I first learned them.

Treble Clef Lines:

Every Good Boy Does Fine
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
Every Good Boy Deserves Football
Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips

Treble Clef Spaces:

F A C E
(No others needed, really; but do tell if you have a little ditty you use for the spaces.)

Bass Clef Lines:

Good Boys Do Fine Always
Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always
Good Burritos Don’t Fall Apart

Bass Clef Spaces:

All Cows Eat Grass
All Cars Eat Gas

My favorite is the “empty garbage” one. What’s yours? Let me know below!

Know any other good ones you like to use? Please add them in the comments below!

 


13 Comments

Natalie Eastman // A Higher Note LLC · September 21, 2022 at 9:27 AM

@brenda bell, I just saw that I’d never replied to your comment – so sorry! (That only took 4 years to notice… sad.) Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. I’m always on the watch for new and helpful ways to remember the lines and spaces of the clefs. I’m definitely in the camp of “if it helps you remember the lines and spaces, use it.” I didn’t have one for the C clef (also commonly known as the alto clef, although it has other uses, I just learned), because I never use it. But I just learned on my friend Glory St. Germain’s website why it’s good to know: https://ultimatemusictheory.com/c-clef/. And I learned a mnemonic for it on another website: Fat Alley Cats Eat Garbage (which will offend some, but definitely has a ring of truth). (Here’s the Link to “Open Music Theory” website by Mark Gotham, Chelsea Hamm, et. al.)

Natalie Eastman // A Higher Note LLC · September 21, 2022 at 9:14 AM

@Kerbalis, thanks for your contribution to the discussion. 🙂 My philosophy is: whatever one can remember, whatever helps you recall all the lines and spaces correctly and easily, use it. Keep making music!

kerbalis · September 16, 2022 at 7:14 AM

oh my god I’m literally non-binary and I do not care that it’s every good boy does fine. it’s not sexist. it’s not transphobic.

Natalie Eastman // A Higher Note LLC · January 14, 2022 at 4:40 PM

Thanks for commenting. It is tricky, isn’t it? The struggle is real, both to eat and live well and healthfully in our busy, instant culture, and to educate musically in ways that also encourage our students’ good health. Keep it up, Rosalie!

Rosalie · January 12, 2022 at 12:14 AM

I know so many people with diabetes, including children with Type I diabetes, that I cringe when I hear “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” So I always use “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”

Natalie Eastman // A Higher Note LLC · October 28, 2020 at 8:56 PM

Brenda, those are great points, all! I’m sorry I took so long to reply – I completely missed your contribution! My apologies. Have you answered any of the questions you put forth at that time?

Natalie Eastman // A Higher Note LLC · October 28, 2020 at 8:49 PM

Right, Dante? LOL That’s the “clue” I give to my students when they’re struggling to identify a space in the Bass Clef. I usually ask if they want a hint and then just say, “Moooo!” Usually, that gets them back on track immediately! Thanks for mooing in on the discussion.

mom · October 27, 2020 at 11:21 AM

mooo

admin · February 6, 2020 at 2:05 PM

Yes, Chris! LOL I took violin for two years with my daughter in her school’s Suzuki program. For me, it wasn’t about learning the music staff notation; the memorization was all about remembering the string lettering. Something about Greece. 🙂 Thank you for chiming in. Come back soon. I hope you’ll check out our new interview series: the “One-Thing, Thirty-Minute Expert Interviews” https://ahighernote.com/resources/.

Chris · January 28, 2020 at 6:18 PM

I learned the treble line notes as “every good boy does fine”, so that’s the default one I usually choose. I also learned “every good boy deserves fudge” and “empty garbage before Dad flips”.

FACE – that has always been self explanatory.

But being a musician (I play the violin), I don’t really need these to memorize since I can read notes by heart.

admin · May 14, 2019 at 11:24 AM

Ha! I like gathering new tricks for learning the lines and spaces! Thanks, Jason.

Jason · April 4, 2019 at 3:03 PM

I thought the lines for the bass clef were Great Big Dogs Fight Animals lol

Brenda Bell · July 25, 2018 at 8:01 AM

I’m a bit concerned about using “Good Boy” nowadays: what about the girls? what about the nongendered, cross-gendered, gender-uncertain, nonbinaries, and genderqueer? Not sure about “good birds” — what about ostriches and emus, which are flightless?

“All Cars Eat Gas” was much more fun than “All Cows Eat Grass” — but today, not ALL cars eat grass (some eat electricity instead).

Or is the idea that if someone calls you on the exceptions to the rule, it means they at least remember the rule?

Also, is there a standard mnemonic for the C clef? (It seems hardest because it’s usually the last to be introduced.) One doesn’t want to repeat “good boy” or “good bird”… Is something like “Gray (or Green) Bunnies Don’t Forget” for the spaces any better than “Good Buddies Don’t Forget” or something a bit more standard?

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