To be able to read piano notes you have to know where to find the exact note on your instrument. A clef
is written in the beginning of the staff. A clef points to one
particular note, so we can use it as a "landmark" to find all the other
The musical clefs also show the general range of the notes on a staff. There is one clef for the high pitched notes, the G or Treble Clef, one for the mid range notes, the C or Alto Clef (which is also movable), and one for the low pitched notes, the F or Bass Clef.
The G- clef tells us where G is. This is a treble
(meaning high pitch) clef, so we will use it when we read piano notes
from the middle of the piano and to the right. This is mostly played
with our right hand:
The F-clef tells us where F is located. This is the bass
(meaning low pitch) clef, so we will use it when we read piano notes
from the middle of the piano and to the left. This is mostly played with
our left hand:
As pianists, we don't really need the Alto, or C clef. This clef shows
exactly where "middle C" is. It is used by for example the viola.
The range of for ex. a viola is focused in the middle of the treble and bass staff, so it would be impractical to have to switch between a G clef and an F clef all the time, or to have to use numerous ledger or help lines which would make it harder to read the notes. So, an alto clef solves that problem by showing the notes that are in this range on the staff.