A clef is a music symbol that indicates the pitch of a written note. It is a reference point by which other notes can be determined.
We learned throughout the lessons how to read and write music using the treble clef. An example of treble clef is shown in the image below:
The treble clef is the most widely used clef in written music.
Today we will learn about the bass clef. It is displayed in the following image:
Notice that it has a big dot in the 4th staff line (staff lines are numbered from the bottom up). Also, the bass clef has two dots on either side of the 4th line. All those dots are enhancing the 4th line, which in this clef is referencing the F note:
So, any music note that we write on the 4th line in a bass clef will be an F note. That’s why this clef is also called the F-clef. Observe:
Above there are a few notes written in the bass clef.
The F note used as a reference point for this clef is not any F: it is the F note that comes before the middle C. The treble clef indicates the middle C as the following image:
Observe where middle C is located in the bass clef:
Notice that middle C is a high note when written using the bass clef, but it’s a low note when written using the treble clef.
The middle C then is a common point for both clefs:
With that said, is correct to say that the bass clef is used to write mid and low notes, while the treble clef is perfect for mid and high notes.
That’s also why we often see piano and keyboard sheet music written using a bass clef for the left hand and a treble clef for the right hand:
The best way of learning to read and play the bass clef is to practice. With repetition, it’s possible to quick identify both the written note and the corresponding key on the keyboard or piano.
The bass clef is also used to write music for other instruments, such as bass and cello.
- Here’s a simple exercise to practice reading and playing the bass clef:
Play this exercise with your left hand. The numbers above the notes indicate the proper left hand fingering.
- Let’s now play a few notes in the treble clef:
Play this exercise with your right hand. The numbers above the notes indicate the proper right hand fingering.
- And finally, let’s put both clefs together:
Play the upper staff with your right hand, and the lower staff with your left hand.
To be able to play both hands together, first practice each hand separately. When playing both hands together, start in a very slow tempo for a while. Soon you will feel more comfortable with playing both clefs at the same time. As I said before, it requires practice and repetition.
That’s it! In the next lesson, we will continue learning about the bass clef.