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Reading Bass cleff

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Dviper, Nov 7, 2004.

  1. Dviper


    Aug 24, 2004
    New York, USA
    Im 16 years old and have been playing bass self tought for about 2 years now. I've been playing trumpet since i was 8 so i am VERY used to the Treble cleff. i can name any note in the treble cleff in an instant. but when it comes to reading bass cleff...im just like uuuhhhhh...?

    So heres my question.

    What is a fast and easy way to learn to read the bass cleff better?
  2. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I feel you- I played trumpet all through high-school and got really used to the treble clef, and then I bought a bass and thigns changed forever. I not longer play trumpet.. haha!

    Long story short: There is no fast, easy way- just playing it and getting yourself adjusted to it. However, thigns to keep in mind:

    The only difference between bass and treble clef is that what would normally be the bottom "E" line is now a "G" and teh first space is now an "A", not an "F". When you look at the clef, just think treble clef +2. If you just knock every line up two steps then it is easier to handle- eventually you will get used to it. after nearly 3 years bass clef still isn't first nature to me, so you are not alone. :)

    BTW- wrong forum ;)
  3. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    i played tenor sax for a few years in high school- i read treble clef and then switched to bass clef when i started reading stage band music on bass-
    thankfully, i do not remember it being a huge dilemma.. but i do remember that i put treble clef away for a LONG time.
    i bought myself the fabled Real Book in bass clef so i could read along with the "heads"- ( melodies) - i can sill read treble clef, but it is much more of a struggle than bass clef at this point.
    if you can afford to, put away your treble clef music and FORCE yourself to read bass clef music- just like reading music itself and learning to recognize rhythms and remember key signatures, the more you do it , the more naturally it will come... and remember this...


  4. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    I have a lot of trouble with bass cleff that is on the staff...

    But Tuba music, which is like, 2-3 lines below, and doesnt go higher than a D on the staff... no problem. I started on bass clef, also.
  5. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    you, see .. it's funny- it's about what you're used to.
    when i switched to 5 string a million years ago, i also had to mentally add those extra 5 low notes...it's only 5 , but it took a minute.
    Now, reading ledger lines above the staff- that screws me up. As soon as it starts to go higher than say, a G, it gets so confusing i wish it was written down an octave with a 8va. Add to that key signature.. and you can have yourself a challenge.
    I am the sub bassist for the Vegas production of Queen's " We Will Rock You"- and the is a tune where the bass is playing these little melodies up there on the neck and reading it is a real b***. I have to actually learn it to get it to flow and sound like it is not being read.
    All that makes me want to give it up to the Philharmic concert violinists, cellists, wind players , etc... that have to read ridiculously difficult stuff... and on fretless instruments !
    we are so spoiled !
  6. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    I use the rhymes

    Spaces: All Cows Eat Grass
    Lines: Great Bassists Don't Fear Anything

    The first letter of each represents the notes on that particular line or space from the bottom line to the top.

    A bit childish I know but I love my rhyme for the lines.

    Hope this helps
  7. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Whatever you do, don't approach it by trying to relate it to the treble clef. You won't get anywhere by thinking "on the treble clef that would be a C, so on the bass clef it's an E."

    A good thing to do is to draw the notes on small squares of paper and pull them out of a bag randomly and name them.
  8. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Practise. For example, when playing scales spend some time working with the music (in bass clef) in front of you rather than just running patterns up and down the neck.

    I found that transcribing tunes has also helped my reading; it takes some time to get my head round how to write down some of the gnarly rhythms I come across but that effort means it's easier to recognise them when I come across them in another piece of music. If identifying the notes is what you're struggling with, I'm sure you'll get a similar benefit as you put the work into transcribing notes into the right places.

  9. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Wulf is right, the only way to really get comfortable with any reading is to practice reading. After almost 40 years of playing, I still get out the books and read through the scales every now and then.
  10. DemoEtc


    Aug 18, 2004
    Sometimes it's helpful to sit there with a sheet of blank score paper and *write* notes down. No melody or anything, just think of a note name and write it down. It sort of reverses the reading process and completes the circle; instead of seeing a note, comprehending what it is and then playing it (external, internal, external), you're thinking of a note and then writing it down (internal, external) and it makes a quicker connection the next time you see it on a page. It sort of bridges the gap between the visual and the comprehension components.

    Then, like everyone else says, practice. :)

    That C clef though: man I'm glad I never had to learn that :)
  11. patrickj


    Aug 13, 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    Reading bass clef is pretty easy, don't sweat it. You have to learn a new location for notes, but the fundementals of flats, sharps, ledger lines, half/whole steps, etc are exactly the same as what you learned with treble clef. Bass with bass clef is actually easier to read than treble (notation wise) because you don't need to worry about funky transpositions either. An A is an A is an A, not an Eb.


    But then I also had to learn to play/read alto and tenor clef (trombone - orchestra) so I may be a glutton for punishment...
  12. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
  13. fourstring44


    Jul 22, 2003
    St. Louis
    Check this out. Got some time to killl, kind of fun.

    sight reading
  14. Get a hymnal. Seriously, the bass lines for most hymns are fairly simple so it is good practice for getting started.

    I also found a program called "note attack" which shows a note and plays it, and you have to select the note name from the keyboard. I believe this does bass clef too, but don't hold me to it.

    Try http://www.bykeyword.com/pages/detail8/download-8545.html
  15. Rowka


    Dec 9, 2002
    Jacksonville, FL
    Be glad we don't play the viola with that crazy movable cleff.
  16. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    well, i play a bit of double as well and in the classical stuff that crazy moveable clefr does sometime make an appearance, which usualy coinicdes with a spate of crying from me!!!

  17. Try this book.

  18. Anti_Wish


    May 14, 2004
    Boston, Ma
    what do you guys know about tenor cleff and alto cleff? my band director wants me to switch to bassoon and i this guy said for most stuff yo need to know all the cleffs
  19. No! Don't do this - I think it's a big mistake!
    I did this when I learned to play the piano about 30 years ago and so never really learned the bass clef on an "internal" level.

    I now try to force myself to just think of the bass clef notes rather than "translating" them to the treble clef - but it's very hard going.

    I think doing the +2 trick is equivalent to trying to speak a foreign language and translating everything inside your head to English as you go along rather than directly speaking the language - it doesn't work very well!

  20. I've been playing trombone and tuba for years, so bass clef is like the back of my hand to me now. Trombone and bass share pretty much the same range (Standard tuning bass anyway). Once I enrolled in music theory I had to learn treble clef, but it was pretty easy after a week or two. Then I had to learn the accursed C clef, easy, yet not at all.