Trying to play this on the violin http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/What_a_Friend_We_Have_in_Jesus/score/

Is this sheet music arranged primarily for a piano? Someone commented to me that to play this on the violin, I should choose the top note on the line with the treble clef. They also commented that the piano plays with both hands, hence there are two different lines - one with the treble clef and one with the base.

2 Answers 2


This is a four-voice arrangement in typical hymn tune style. It is primarily designed to be sung by a four-part (soprano/alto/tenor/bass) choir. It is playable on piano, but isn't in a particularly idiomatic style for keyboard.

Yes, the melody is in the top voice. This is what a violin would probably play. In the simplest 'church band' other instruments might support the alto, tenor or bass lines. Or maybe all the singers could take the melody, and a more interesting arrangement could be devised.


This sheet is designed almost exclusively for piano! The clues are the two staves, bracketed together, providing the r.h. and l.h. notes to be read. However, to make the piece sound like the tune it's supposed to, the usual trick, used here, is to incorporate the melody notes as the highest notes written, therefore played. So, with any lead instrument, playing the top line will provide the melody. I say any - but bear in mind in your case, the violin will produce the same pitch as written. Try it on a clarinet or Bb trumpet, and that opens a whole new can of worms!

You mention 'other string inmstrument'. As in the first para., it won't work with viola or cello, as they use a different clef from the treble here. It would fit well with a guitar, bearing in mind that the sound produced will be an octave lower than written, but that's no big deal.

  • Clarinettists usually become adept at transposing on sight. I even became accustomed to transposing on sight with an Eb alto saxophone. I know that the viola normally uses the alto clef and the cello the base clef but don't both occasionally use the treble clef for higher passages? I would have expected that violists and cellists could read the treble clef.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 10:23
  • @badjohn - yes, I did the same on trumpet, it was just a friendly warning - several beginners I've played with were unaware of the potential prblem. Not sure about cello on treble clef - it'd be better for them to have 8va written.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 10:59
  • Parts for viola and cello both use treble clef - but not at "beginner" level. The "professional" range of the cello is at least 4 octaves - i.e. up to C two leger lines above the treble clef. All professional orchestral players should be able to deal with that - soloists can go at least a 6th higher, to A.
    – user19146
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 11:35
  • @Tim Yes, a warning is worthwhile. I learned this early on but I was the rare student who was further ahead in theory than practice. I liked the theory but most of the others regarded theory as a nuisance that they had to do. I have not played a clarinet in A, I would hope that it would not be a problem with a part intended for it but it would be a new challenge to play a concert pitch part on a clarinet in A.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 11:45
  • Clarinet in A is "easy" to read from a concert pitch score. The notes are is just displaced by one line or space. Eb instruments are the same, but displaced in the opposite direction. Reading from concert pitch for Bb instruments is harder IMO, unless you can read C clefs fluently (work out the details for yourself!).
    – user19146
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:53

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