Use of D-clef in violin music

As an amateur violinist recently trying to brush up my dormant skills a bit, I came up with the following thought. Why not use a D-clef for high pitch parts of violin music? Of course it is not a good idea to break tradition and go against good practise that has developed over a long time. But after thoruough thought there still seems to be a certain appeal in this proposed utterly logical extension of the tradition usage of clefs in modern musical notation.

So I decided to write this little piece. Of course all kind of keys have historically been used,[1] but at least by searching the web I was unable to find any real modern use of this kind of a clef. Maybe I have missed something? Any thoughts on this that you would like to share with me then plase drop me a line (not much for social media). And spread the word. So here comes the motivation and what it is about.

In the sequence F3, C4, G4, D5, A5, E6, and B6 following perfect fifths up, the clefs in modern traditional use, occupy the three first notes in the sequence. So D5 is in every way the next natural step to go. And this sequence, by the way, is the backbone of western tonality, I think, as it displays the build up of a major or natural minor scale; the fifth in itself is more basic than any tonal system.


The point for violinists in the proposed new notation is that the music is readable as normal except that everything happens one string up. The proposed standard placemnt of the D-clef is at the same line as the treble clef, thus putting D5 at the line where G4 used to be. This idea is borrowed from cello music, where it is accustomed to use a tenor clef for the higher parts putting C4 at the same line as F3 with the bass clef.

On the right are shown the tenor clef, mezzo soprano clef, treble clef respectively, but with extra clef symbols added to illustrate the would be position, were one to denote the same pitch level with that other symbol. The key signature of E major is shown for further illustration of where the notes find their places.

In the following example going from an open D string up to four-line D, written first in traditional treble clef notation and then utilizing the D-clef, it becomes apparent how much more readable the score is, when fewer ledger lines are needed.


The strong resemblance with the letter D has the at least these advantages. You might be able to guess the meaning of it even if you see it in sheet music for the first time. It has a slightly more modern feel compared to the cumbersom style of the traditional ones.

And yes, the french violin clef falls in between the treble clef and this proposed D-clef. But why up things only by a third, when a fifth is so much more natural?

The shape of the D-clef used here is merely a scetch to illustrate the idea. It may need some adjusting and tuning to be of use in real typesetting. Here it is separately in a small svg file. The middle bend that points at the actual staff line is borrowed from the C-clef and reversed.


Wikipedia contributors, "Clef," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 10, 2016).

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The D-clef by Alex Hellsten is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.