What IS a bass clef?
The bass (sounds like “base”) clef is the place where musicians read and write low notes. Low-sounding instruments like the cello and the tuba, and also the left hand on the piano, will use the bass clef.
This funny looking symbol is actually a very old fashioned way to draw the letter F. Try connecting the two dots to the main symbol – it magically becomes an F! This symbol is placed on the staff to show where the F line is.
Just look for the line between the two dots, and any note on that line is an F. And it’s not just any F. This F is called “BASS F” and it’s the F just below middle C on the piano.
From there, you can figure out any other note in the bass clef by following the musical alphabet. But, rather than memorizing which of all those lines and spaces go with which of all those letters, is there a faster way?
The best way to learn how to read notes is with GUIDE NOTES. These are special notes on the staff that are in easy-to-remember locations. If you learn to recognize guide notes, then you can quickly figure out any other note!
You’ve already learned your first guide note on the bass clef: BASS F.
The next one you probably already know is: MIDDLE C.
Next up, BASS C is easy to remember because it sits in the second space on the bass staff, and it’s the only bass clef guide note that’s a space note.
Next we have GROUND G. It’s called GROUND G because it’s on the bottom line of the bass clef.
And finally, we have LOW C, which is two ledger lines down in the basement.
The great thing about guide notes is that once you’ve mastered them, ANY note you see will only be one or two spots away. Simply start on the guide note and count up or down the musical alphabet, or move up or down the piano keyboard, to find it.
For example, if you wanted to know what this note is:
Take a look at the nearest guide note, bass C. The note you want is one note below it, so it must be a low B.
Now take a look at this one:
One nearby guide note is bass F. The note you want is two notes above it, so it must be an A.
This even works for leger lines. What’s this bad boy?
It’s one note up from Low C, so . . . ? You’ve got it, this has got to be a D!
To help you practice and get really good at reading notes, our team at Hoffman Academy has designed a set of Grand Staff Flashcards you can download and print for FREE. These flashcards cover both the treble and bass clefs. Included with the flashcards you’ll find instructions for games and activities you can do to become a master of quickly reading any note on the staff. Just click the link below!