Music TheoryClefsPitch

The Bass Clef: An Overview

Written by Dan Farrant

Last updated

When it comes to learning about musical clefs, there are a few essential ones that you’ll need to know about if you’re learning to read music or want to learn music theory.

In this post, I’m going to be taking a look at a clef that’s used by instruments that play in the lower register: The Bass Clef.

What is the Bass Clef?

The bass clef

The bass clef is a type of musical clef used by instruments that play low-pitched notes.

It’s also known as the F clef as it loops and wraps itself around the note F on a stave.

It also has two small dots on either side of the 2nd line of the stave to show us which note is F.

The F clef

Over the years it’s evolved from originally being written as a letter F through lots of different variations to what we know it as today.

The bass clef history

What Instruments use the Bass Clef?

Lots of different instruments use the bass clef to read music.

Instruments like:

  • Double basses 
  • Tubas
  • Bassoons
  • The left hand of the piano

How to Draw a Bass Clef

As far as all the clefs go it’s probably one of the easiest clefs to draw.

That being said you need to get it in the right place.

I’ve got a post and free drawing bass clef worksheet for you to download and practice.

But this video here gives you an overview.

Bass Clef Notes

To help you memorize and learn these notes we can split them up into lines and the spaces like we did with the treble clef notes.

For the notes on the lines you can use the phrase:

Great Britain Doesn’t Fight America

Great Britain Doesn’t Fight America

There are a few other mnemonics you could use:

Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always – or: Great Big Dogs Frighten Auntie

And lastly, for the notes in the spaces I use the phrase:

All Cows Eat Grass

All Cows Eat Grass

That’s it for the Bass Clef

I hope that helps make a bit more sense of the bass clef and how to work out all the notes.

It can seem overwhelming at first that you have to memorize them all but with a little practice and using the mnemonics covered above as well as flashcards you’ll slowly start to internalize them.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.