This article may contain compensated links. Please read the disclosure for more info.
As pianists, we have to learn to read both the Treble clef (G) and the Bass clef notes (F) equally well.
Unfortunately, most students learn only treble notation in school. When starting piano lessons, they often struggle to get note reading on the bass staff to the same level as the treble clef.
The best and fastest way to learn to name and play notes is by using flashcards. Here you'll get free bass clef flashcards, printable and ready to use, to learn to read bass clef notation quickly with straightforward exercises.
Follow the exercises outlined below and print your own free set of bass clef notes flash cards (PDF). Printable & free, with both letter and syllable names, to keep practicing on your own. Have fun! :)
When you start to learn to read music, you usually learn to read the notes of the treble / 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 they tend to fall behind trying to read the bass clef notes fluently...
But you know what? It's easy to learn!
The staff showing the low-pitched sounds with a bass clef is also called a Bass Staff. Today you will usually see the bass clef written like this:
As with all music clefs, the Bass Clef identifies one note that you use to relate to all the other bass clef notes. In this case, this note is F (the first F found below "middle C"). That's also why it's called an F clef. The music note F is written on the second line between the dots.
The F/bass clef has been written in different styles throughout time. It's actually a stylized figure of the letter F:
Here the Bass clef is written in Mensural Notation from the Middle ages.
This old "reversed" clef could be found in hymn books up to recently. J.S Bach wrote the F clef like this! 😉
So, if you know where bass F is, it is then relatively easy to figure out the rest of the bass clef notes.
You do know the alphabet forwards and backward, right? Ascending notes on the staff go forward in the alphabet. And descending go back.
Tip: By using my Bass Clef Flash Cards (below), 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 placed on a musical staff.
For example, on the bass staff:
Line Notes (from bottom-up: G B D F A):
Space Notes (from bottom-up: A C E G):
But this works only in countries where the notes are named from the alphabet. In countries where syllable names (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si/Ti) are used, it's simply not practical.
I have found that, although perhaps seemingly convenient initially, mnemonics are not as helpful as they may seem.
Better use of your time is to quickly learn where they are positioned and then practice naming the notes using my bass clef flashcards PDF (below).
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 practice learning a few "landmarks" first:
Learn just a few landmarks or guide notes to relate to all the other notes.
Here's how (refer to my whiteboard above):
Study the picture above, and memorize it like this:
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 flashcards is, in my experience, an even more accessible and more effective way of memorizing notes and their position on the staff.
As you practice, it's essential to say the note name out loud and play the exact pitch on an instrument. This will employ more of your senses and make it easier to remember.
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 notation so fast you won't need the flashcards for long. Yay! :)
If you want ready-made and colored flashcards, here are my favorite music theory flashcards. You can drill all note names, time signatures, music vocabulary, etc.
Check them out here: Color Coded Flashcards.