I have small bass and treble clefs on the piece I'm learning. This picture shows two lines where these small clefs appear.

small clefs

Please, could someone explain what they mean.

Update: I appreciate the answers I got regarding the clefs. Now, I'm confused about what happens in the 5th measure when both hands are supposed to play the same G. How does that work?

4 Answers 4


They indicate a temporary switch of clefs.

The main reason why they are used here is to aid reading, by seperating the left and right hand, giving each its own stave. The little clef in the fourth measure is to draw even more attention that a switch of clefs will be coming in the next line.

  • 2
    The clef in the fourth measure is not optional. Mar 27, 2015 at 15:56

Sometimes, the notes to be played in a score are very high in the bass clef, so instead of putting them on ledger lines above the clef, the sign changes to treble clef and the dots are easier to read. The opposite also happens - notes too low in the treble clef get written in the bass clef, to save counting lower ledger lines.

  • 1
    It may be worth noting that the two-treble-clef or two-bass-clef notation is best when left-hand notes remain consistently significantly below right-hand notes. If parts overlap or cross, it's often clearer to have both on the same staff, generally using stem direction--but occasionally using annotations--to distinguish them. In bar 5 beat 4, I think the latter style might have made it clearer that on a single-manual instrument the left hand will need to get off the "g" quickly, though on a two-manual instrument it could (and should) hold it for the full beat.
    – supercat
    Mar 27, 2015 at 17:10

Regarding the doubled-up G:

The composer has written the musical effect he requires. He hasn't been pedantic over exactly how the player will achieve it. The L.H. will of course need to release the G early so that the R.H. can play it as part of the melody. I don't think you'll find it a great practical difficulty.


It is usually when both hands are playing low that the bass clef gets inserted where the treble clef usually is. The inverse can also happen when both hands are playing high.

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