Struggling to read 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 students 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 by 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.
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:
As with all music clefs, the Bass Clef identifies a note that you can then use to relate all the other notes. 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.
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:
Here the Bass clef is written in Mensural Notation from the Middle ages.
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 backward, 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.
Using mnemonics is a popular way of memorizing where the notes are on a musical staff. For example:
Bass Staff Line Notes (from bottom-up):
Bass Staff Space Notes (from bottom-up):
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.
Better use of your time is to quickly learn where the notes are positioned, and then practice naming the notes using "flashcards".
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! :)
I recommend learning 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":
Learn a few landmarks or guide notes to relate all the other bass clef notes to. Here's how:
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 employ more of your senses and will make it easier to remember.
You can print out my free Bass Clef Notes Flashcards here:
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 the flashcards for long. Yay!
If you want ready-made colored flashcards, my all-time favorite music theory flashcards 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.