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How to Read Music on Viola Clef

Musical Staff, Viola Clef, The Notes, Ledger Lines

Many people know how to read music in treble clef (G clef) and bass clef (F clef). Yet many people are unfamiliar with Viola Clef (or C Clef). Viola (pronounced Vee-ola) is the middle instrument of the Violin family. The viola looks like a violin. It is bigger than a violin, but smaller than a cello. Violinists read music in treble clef. Cellists read music in bass clef. Violists read music in Viola Clef.

Choose a viola song you want to learn. If you are a beginner, choose something simple.

musical staff

Familiarize yourself with the musical staff. Each musical staff contains 5 lines. Notes run from A to G. Then they repeat themselves in a higher register as you go higher. Moving up a step from line to space moves you up one note. Moving up a step from line to line moves you up two notes. The reverse is true when you go down on the musical staff.

viola clef

On viola clef the note on the middle line is always C. Knowing this will make your music reading experience much easier! If you move one space up, the note is D. If you move two steps up the note is E. If you move one step down the note is B. If you move two steps down, the note is A. If you get lost, always remember that the middle note in viola clef is always C. Then work your way from there.

ledger lines

Learn your ledger lines on viola clef. When the note is too high or too low to fit on the musical staff, the note will be displayed on a ledger line. Each ledger line of a staff functions the same way as a regular line.

Learn the range of the viola. On a viola, the notes will never go lower than the C below Middle C (one ledger line and space below the middle line of the staff). And on a viola, the notes will probably never go higher than about two ledger lines above the highest line in the staff.


Always find your way home by remembering that the middle line in viola clef is always C. For viola, you will never find notes more than one ledger line below or two ledger lines above the staff. When the notes in the song become too high, the music will usually switch to treble clef.

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