How to read clarinet notes? (Types, Useful tips + more)

Clarinet sheet music has the same kind of notations as that of other instruments. Here we get to discuss the types of notes and tips that are essential in reading clarinet notes.

All music instruments are played by following their specific sheet music. These sheet music give the guide to which pitch, rhythm or chord the notes are to be played. These are displayed in form of musical symbols. The music symbols are on staves: staves are the parallel horizontal lines on a music sheet. There are two types of staves: the treble staff and bass staff. The naming of staff will depend of the symbol placed sign placed on it. For the clarinet, the treble staff is what is used.

Knowing how to read music and playing the music for the clarinet instrument is like killing two birds with one stone as the procedures are the same. However, it does not take away the skillset that is needed for each as they are very different. As mentioned, to play the clarinet you use the treble staff to read the music on the music sheet since while playing the clarinet you play one note at a time. To know how to read the notes, you first have to know how to read sheet music.

The treble staff

As mentioned above, clarinet notes are read on the treble staff. The treble staff is a set of five parallel horizontal lines that are distinguished with a treble clef at the beginning of the line. This is different from the bass staff that has a bass clef at the beginning of the line.

Notes are located on the horizontal line or space which signifies the pitch at which they are played. And as simple as it is, if the note sits higher on the stave it means the pitch will be higher. There are ledger lines which are midi lines that are meant for lowering or raising the notes.

The lines on the treble staff are E-G-B-D-F while the space in between the notes are F-A-C-E which is easy to remember. For a beginner, the easiest notes to play are E, D and C. The note D for example is easy to play since it has very few keys.

It is important to note that among the types of clarinet there is the bass clarinet which may lead one to thinking on which staff it follows. The bass clarinet’s notation are read on the treble and bass staff. The bass clarinet has a significant range which explains why just one staff isn’t enough.

Tips on how to read the clarinet notes

Reading the sheet music is considered by many to be very hectic. This is no further from the truth. The sheet music for each instrument can be challenging especially for a beginner. When it comes to reading the clarinet notes, alongside following the instructions given by your teacher there are tips that may bring you closer to reading the notations with ease. These tips are as follows:

Learn the names of the notes

This is the first key step you should begin with when wanting to know how to read the clarinet notes. The clarinet notes are what helps us to create music. You will need to know what each of these notes are in order to read them.

Learn time value

To be able to read the different notes, you first know on which position they are on the staff. There is a time value on each piece which are indicated at the beginning of the piece after clef symbol. This is usually represented by two numbers stacked on each other. The shape of the note also shows you how long to play or hold the note for.

A quarter note

It is held for only one count and fills in the circle.

A half note

It is held on two counts

A whole note

This note usually is in an empty circle that goes for four counts.

Memorize key signatures

As an instrumentalist, memorizing the key signatures is helpful in knowing beforehand the sharps and flats that you will encounter when reading the clarinet notes.


It usually happens when you move right the next key. It is represented by the pound sign. It raises the pitch by a half a step.


Opposite to the sharp sign, it lowers the pitch by half a step. It is represented by small letter ‘B’. It is done when moving left of the clarinet on the first key.

Familiarize with different rhythms

There many different rhythms exist in the playing of the clarinet. Familiarizing with these different rhythms will help you when it comes to reading notes.

Know your scales

Fingering for playing the clarinet is made easier by memorizing and knowing your scales. Also it helps in knowing your key signatures.

Examine the pieces

Get to examine the notes. Identify areas which give you trouble when reading the notes. This will come in handy for those who are not beginners.

Identify annotations within the pieces

Take close attention to the changes in notation. Something you should note as well is the time signature.


It is no secret that reading the notes for any musical instrument is not a walk in the park and the clarinet notes is no exception. For a beginner it might be overwhelming, but even the experts started off from somewhere. Get to learn what notes are there for the clarinet which will take you to the next step of reading them. The tips listed above are basic highlights on what to keep in mind while reading the clarinet notes. Finally, practice as much as possible, this is the only way you’ll get better at it.


What is the easiest note to play on the clarinet?

E, D and C are the easiest.

Are clarinet notes read on the bass and treble staves?

Clarinet notes are read on the treble staff. However, the bass clarinet notes are read on both.

Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

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