Reading the bass clef.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Because I learned the treble clef early in life, and because I fried my brain on various chemicals later in life (which I haven't done in many years), I can't seem to hold onto the note values in the bass clef. It's incredibly frustrating and I give up pretty quickly just about every time I commit to finally getting it down. Gonna try something new. Since I sit around all day at work I'm going to take music books with me and pencil in every note, every day, for the rest of the week. I wonder if this'll make it stick? Not sure why I'm posting this. My cat had me up all night cuz he's a pain in the ass. That's why. I can't think clearly. I just said Tony Levin stole something from me in another thread too, for no reason. I don't want to go to work. I want to stay home and play my new bongo.

    Anyone else have any other ways of practicing bass when you don't have a bass around. Yeah I know bass player did an article on that once but I don't remember it.
  2. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    Two little phrases that have helped me with reading bass clef:

    The notes on the clef lines:

    ----- A
    ----- F
    ----- D
    ----- B
    ----- G

    Good Bassists Deserve Funk Always

    The notes inbetween the lines:


    All Cows Eat Grass
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    What's useful to remember as well, is that the low E - bottom string on most 4-strings - sits on the leger line below the stave - it's like the lower limit...?

    Then - C at 5th fret on the G string is like the upper limit, sitting on the first leger line above the stave.

    This is what makes Bass Clef so useful for our instrument - all the main, usable range below 5th fret, sits very neatly between one leger line below and one above ! :)

    I don't know - this helps me .....?
  4. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    its just practise practise practise.

    start simple and work at it. thats it. there is no shortcut.
    soon after using the rhymnes a but you'll find it becomes second nature.

    Perhaps, also throw yourself in at the deep end and get yoursef a reading gig - this will force you to sort iti out! sorted me out...

    Good luck and don't give up, a little each day and you'll be well on your way!

  5. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    I used to do this drill several times a day at work, while on the phone, before heading to the can etc...

    Bass Clef Drill

    Once I could name the notes without having to think about it, I started picturing where they were on the fretboard. If I was at home, I'd hold the bass and finger the notes with my left hand while I clicked on the next one on the mouse. It takes awhile, but now I can run this entire drill in a few seconds.
  6. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Honestly, get a workbook.

    Fifty pages of naming the note will ingrain the Bass clef in your head forever.

    Plus just get a bunch of basic beginner books and start sight reading like crazy.
  7. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL
    I downloaded a little program called "notable" its really made for piano but you can set it up to do bass clef only and it keeps track of your progress and encourages you to read faster and faster.

    Took me about 3 days to go from not reading any music at all to reading bass clef without really thinking about it anymore.

  8. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL
    Might also mention I set it up to do Low E to Middle C and not just the ACEG/GBDFA Range.

    I think the website was ""

  9. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I'm right there with you, Joe. I started on saxophone, and still think in treble clef. And just about every beginning excersise book on the market tells you what key you're in and where your fingers should go, which isn't exactly helpful if you're already proficient on the bass. I found that I'd involuntarily look at those markings, and then play the whole excersize by ear. No good.

    Then I found a book called Note Reading Studies for Bass, by Arnold Evans (published by Mel Bay). It's designed for guys who want to focus on sightreading, and it's fantastic for guys like us. It starts out easy, and gets progressively harder, and doesn't actually tell you anything other than what's indicated in the music itself. I'm becoming pretty darn comfortable in bass clef solely based on working out of that book. I'm even becoming a pretty good sight reader.

    Here's a link to the book:
  10. Two suggestions.........

    1) your local music shop should have flash cards for a few bucks per set..... they really can help with recognition skills.

    2) get yourself some manuscript paper and transcribe Tab to Notation......... this will solidify the pitch values in yor mind, as well as help with fretboard placement recognition...
  11. Thanks man ! That helps a lot.
  12. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
  13. Brat


    Jun 4, 2004
    NW Indiana.
    If you have a MIDI program, it will help. I always think G on the bottom line then ABCDEFGA in order. An E is on the legder line and inbetween the E and the G is an F. Thats how I remember it.
  14. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    I also learned to read on the treble clef and abused my brain in between then and learning bass clef.

    It's taken a few attempts and I've found that sight reading is the only way to really force it in my head. Get something like a walking bass tutor book (all quarter notes... you don't have to think about rhythm too much) with no tab. Ed Friedland's Building Walking basslines is good.
  15. at first you may want to learn note names, but when i read music i think of it in terms of fingering...if someone said play the f# in wherever i could do it and recongnize the f# but i don't bother getting hung up. I got form paper to finger with minimal brain
  16. Nathan Andersen

    Nathan Andersen

    Sep 24, 2008

    If you want to study the "all cows eat grass" and "every bassist deserves good funk" method, check out this helpful online tool:

  17. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA

    if you are sitting in front of a computer all day like i am at work you may be able to use this as a learning tool. It's a game that teaches you the bass clef.
  18. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Jazz & Cocktails Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    Instead of peciling in all the note names, I started bass clef by circling just the open string notes E, A, D & G. I also worked on Simandl a good bit so that helped with note groups & positions, etc.

    I've also been getting more comfortable with treble clef on bass by reading/playing melodies in the octave register (thumb position on upright).

    What kind of stuff are you reading? I dig working with Real Books, etc.
  19. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    It's all about intervals. From one space to the next is a third (major or minor depending on the key and/or accidentals), two spaces is a fifth, etc. Once I determine the starting place (by song, exercise, phrase, whatever works for a particular situation), then it's about finding the intervals.

    I don't think writing the note names is going to help your reading. It'll teach your eye to look for the names, unless you're not going to actually try to play the exercises you wriet the note names in to.


  20. Thanks for this link, this really helps me too. I have plenty of time at work to work on this.

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