The Treble and Bass Clefs in Piano Music
5 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Reading Piano Music
When using printed music to play piano, the treble and bass clefs identify the notes. A clef’s sole purpose in life is to tell you the names of the lines and spaces on the staff so that you can play piano music accurately. If the clef could talk, it would say something like, For this set of notes, the lines and spaces represent these keys.
Music uses several different clefs, but as a keyboard player you’re in luck — you only need to know two — the treble clef and the bass clef. You can think of it as having a clef for each hand because you generally play the notes on the treble clef with your right hand and the notes on the bass clef with your left hand.
Playing the treble clef
The treble clef is also called the G clef because it
Looks like a (very) stylized G.
Circles around the second staff line which (not coincidentally) represents the note G.
The G line encircled by the treble clef isn’t for just any old G key. It’s the G closest to the middle of the keyboard. After you find this G, reading the other lines and spaces on the staff is as easy as reciting the alphabet.
Going low to the bass clef
Your left hand typically plays the lower notes on the keyboard, which are also called bass notes. (For the record, that’s pronounced like base, not like the fish you caught last weekend.) The base notes are generally indicated by the bass clef.
Like the treble clef, the bass clef surrounds a particular line that represents a particular note: F. You can remember the special relationship between the bass clef and the note F by thinking about the following two things:
The bass clef’s two dots surround the staff line that represents the note F.
The bass clef looks like a stylized F (use your imagination).
You can call the bass clef the F clef or just think of it as a stylized B (the dots are the humps) for bass.
The bass clef doesn’t surround the F just below the treble clef G. Instead, this F is one octave grouping below (or to the left).
To read the notes on the bass clef, simply start with the F line and travel down (backward) and up (forward) through the alphabet.