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Lesson 5: The Bass Clef
By Debbie Ridpath Ohi - 06/04/2007 - 10:56 AM EDT

The symbol to the left is called the bass clef. By placing it on a staff, you're identifying that staff with bass cleff. If you were taking piano lessons, this would be the staff you would most strongly associate with the left hand in your early lessons.

The bass clef is also called the F Clef because the curly bit in the middle wraps around the staff line also known the F line (the second line from the top). If you play or sing a note on the F line, it will sound as concert F.

Names of the spaces in the bass clef

There are four spaces in the bass clef, and these are named: A C E G

The most common way to remember the names of spaces is the phrase: All Cows Eat Grass. Some of you may wish to exert some creative license, so feel free to come up with an alternate phrase of your own.

Names of the lines in the bass clef

The names of the lines in the bass clef are: G B D F A

There are several ways of remembering the names of lines, but I have to confess that I'm not entirely happy with any of them. Here are a few:

  • Good Boys Deserve Fun Always: A tad sexist, don't you think?
  • Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always: A tad sexist AND doesn't really promote particularly good nutritional habits.

But heck, it's just a trick for memorizing the bass clef lines. If you can think of anything more interesting, feel free to forward your ideas and I'll post them here if they're family-friendly.

How to make bass clef flashcards

I've provided the images for your flashcards at the end of this column. Print out the images on a piece of paper, and then use a pair of scissors to cut them up so that each one is on a separate piece of paper.

1. Buy a pack of blank white index cards (3.5 x 5").

2. Glue the music-notation section of each image on one side of each card. On the other side of the card, glue the corresponding letter (or write it with ink that won't show through the other side).

3. Shuffle the cards.

4. Go through the entire deck of cards, with the note portion facing toward you. Name the note, then turn the card over to see if you're right. At first you'll probably have to remember the rules ("All Cows Eat Grass", "Good Boys Deserve Fun Always") to identify each note.

5. This will be frustrating at first, and likely very slow-going. Don't Give Up! The more you practice, the more automated the process will get.

Once you're comfortable with these bass clef flashcards, shuffle them with the treble clef flashcards and practice with the entire deck.

And when you know those, add the following bass clef flashcards. Feel free to review my column on ledger lines if you find yourself scratching your head over how to figure out the names of notes outside of the bass clef.

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