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Victoria Williams

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Next UK ABRSM theory exams
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Grade Five Music Theory - Lesson 4b: Bass Clef

The Bass Clef

This lesson is for Grade 5 Theory students who need an extra bit of help with the bass (F) clef, but who are already comfortable with the treble (G) clef. You can safely skip this lesson if you can already read the bass clef!


Although if you don’t play an instrument which uses the bass clef, (like the piano, bassoon or trombone), you don’t need to be able to read the bass clef fluently, it’s really worthwhile taking a bit of time to get used to reading music written in the bass clef. If you’re a fast bass clef reader you’ll also save yourself a lot of time in the Grade 5 Theory Exam! The bass clef is the second most common clef used in written music.


 The Bass Clef Symbol

The symbol for bass clef looks like this:

Bass clef on the stave

It’s actually a very arty, stylised capital F. The two horizontal short lines on the capital F are represented by the two dots on the right hand side. Can you see it? The line between the two dots is the line where we find the note F below middle C.


What and Where is Middle C?

Many people think of middle C as the C closest to the middle of the piano keyboard (often near the keyhole!)

Middle C is also right in the middle of the staves if you put a treble clef stave together with a bass clef stave, as is usually done in piano music. Here’s a two-octave descending scale of C major which crosses from treble clef to bass clef. Middle C is in the box:

The grand staff

Notice that middle C always sits on one ledger line. In the treble clef it sits below the stave, but in bass clef it sits above it .


 Notes in the Bass Clef

You might find it helpful to memorise a short phrase to remember where the notes lie in the bass clef.

For the notes on lines, try this one:

Bass clef notes on lines


And here’s one for the spaces:

Bass clef notes in spaces

If you feel that you still need more practice, why not take a look at the grade 1 lesson here.


 Key Signatures in the Bass Clef

The position of key signatures in all clefs is covered in Lesson 5 - Key Signatures.


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