Master the Bass Clef Notes

& Free Printable Flash Cards

Still struggling with the bass clef notes? 

As pianists we have to learn to read both the treble (G) clef and the Bass (F) clef equally. Unfortunately, most learn only the treble clef notes in school, and when starting piano lessons struggle to get note reading on the bass staff up to the same level. Here you'll learn to read the bass clef notes quickly with very simple exercises.

The best and fastest way to learn to name and play notes is using flashcards. Follow the exercises as outlined below and print your own free set of flashcards (with both letter and syllable names!) to keep practicing on your own.

Have fun!

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The Bass or F Clef Notes

Bass Clef NotesA B C D E F G A

When you start learning how to read music you are usually learning to read the treble clef / G clef first.Since many instruments use only the treble clef to notate music, most music theory students already know this clef well and how to read it, but tend to fall behind when it comes to reading bass clef notes fluently. But you know what? It is very easy to learn!

The bass clef, or F clef show where the bass or low sounding notes are. The staff showing the low pitched note with a bass clef is also called a Bass Staff. Today you will mostly see the bass clef written like this:

Bass clef on staff

As with all music clefs, the Bass Clef identifies a note that you can then use to relate all the other notes to. In this case this note is bass F, (the first F found below "middle C") and that is also why it's called an F clef.

Bass staff with F clef

The note F is on the second line between the dots.

The F clef / bass clef has been written in different ways throughout time and is actually a stylized figure of the letter F:

Bass clef in Mensural Notation

The Bass clef written in Mensural Notation from the Middle ages.

Old Bass Clef

This old "reversed" bass clef could be found in hymn books up to recently.

J.S Bach wrote the F clef like this! (Ha!)

So, if you know where bass F is, it is then relatively easy to figure out the rest of the notes. You do know the alphabet forwards and backwards, right? Ascending notes on the staff go forward in the alphabet, and descending go backward.

So the next note one step up from F is...G! The next (starting the alphabet again) is A, then B and so on. Going down from F is...E! Then D, C and so on.

Bass Clef Notes

Using Mnemonics

By Using Flash Cards You'll become a better and faster note reader instead of wasting time trying to remember if the cows eat grass or if the boys are good or not! :)

Using mnemonics is a popular way of memorizing where the notes are on a staff. For example:

Bass Staff Line Notes (from bottom up):

  • Good Boys Does Fine Always (seriously?)

Bass Staff Space Notes (from bottom up):

  • All Cows Eat Grass

But- this works only in countries where the notes are named from the alphabet. In other countries, where syllable names are used (Do, Re,Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si/Ti) this is not practical.

I have found that, although perhaps seemingly convenient in the beginning, mnemonics are not as useful as they may seem. A better use of your time is to quickly learn where the notes are positioned, and then practice naming the notes using "flash cards". You will become a better and faster note reader instead of wasting time trying to remember if the cows eat grass or if the boys are good or not! :)

Using Landmark or Guide Notes

I recommend to learn to independently identify all the notes as soon as possible, instead of relying on mnemonics. One way is to learn first a few "landmark notes":

Landmark notesLearn these landmark notes, and you'll know the rest of the note names as well!

Learn a few landmark or guide notes to relate all the other bass clef notes to. Here's how:

  • First learn where "middle C" is on the grand staff. Done? OK.
  • Then learn where treble G and bass F is. Duh...  this is shown by the Clefs of course!
  • Next step is to be amazed over the High and Low C on each staff. 8-)
  • This time learn the notes on the top line of the treble staff and the bottom of the bass staff. The top is F, the bottom is G. Study the picture above, and memorize like this:
  1. The G clef shows us G.
  2. The F clef show us F.
  3. Top line of the G clef staff is F.
  4. Bottom line of the F clef staff is (the opposite)......G!
  • The final "landmarks" or "guide notes" are "very" High C, and "very" low C. They both have two ledger lines (or "help" lines).

Geek alert! Did you notice that if you turn the score upside down...all the C guide notes are in the same place?

Using Flash Cards

Using flashcards is in my experience a very quick way of memorizing notes and their position on the staff. It is important not only to say the note name out loud, but to play the exact pitch on an instrument too. This will use more of your senses and will make it easier to remember.

Bass Clef Notes Flash Cards With Letter And Syllable Names

You can print out my free Bass Clef Notes Flashcards here:

  1. Bass Clef with Notes 1a. Second Page with Answers 1b.
  2. Bass Clef with Notes 2a. Second Page with Answers 2b.
  3. Bass Clef with Notes 3a. Second Page with Answers 3b.
  4. Bass Clef with Notes 4a. Second Page with Answers 4b.
  5. Bass Clef with Notes 5a. Second Page with Answers 5b.

Print on card stock on both sides (so you have the answers on the back), cut out and use to practice every day. You will learn bass clef notes so fast you won't need them for long. Good feeling! :)

If you want ready made colored flashcards, my all time favorite music theory flash cards are by Alfred's. You can drill note names, time signatures, music vocabulary and much more. Check them out here: Alfred's Color Coded Flashcards .

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