With a simple trick involving building chords, you can learn the bass and treble clef notes of standard notation. It’s not so easy if you do not know how to build chords in thirds. If you don’t know how to build chords then you should learn. By the end of the article, you’ll easily remember the notes of the lines and spaces of both clefs.
How to learn the notes of the bass and treble clefs
You may be familiar with the mnemonic (memory aid) “Good Boys Do Fine Always” for the bass clef lines or the word FACE for the treble clef spaces. Forget all those stupid techniques.
To learn the notes of the lines and spaces of both clefs, all you need to do is know how to build 7th and 9th chords. If you don’t know how to build chords then check out these 2 articles of mine:
If you do know how to build 7th and 9th chords then the next two sections will show you how to easily remember the bass and treble clef notes
Bass Clef: learn how to build G9 and Am7
Let’s start with the notes of the bass clef. As a guitar player, you will only see this clef if you have sheet music that is labeled as\for “Piano/Vocal/Guitar”.
The bass clef is the clef with the 2 dots on either side of the 2nd staff line from the top. That line is an F note. If you draw two lines from the curvy part to the dots then you can kind of see the letter “F”.
Enough with that. Here are the notes for the lines and spaces of the bass clef:
- The notes of the lines for the bass clef are the notes in a G dominant 9th chord (G9 = G-B-D-F-A).
- The notes of the spaces for the bass clef are the notes in an A minor 7 chord (Am7 = A-C-E-G).
Everyone knows how to play an A minor 7th chord. Dominant 9th chords are popular in a lot of genres of music and if you don’t know them then you should learn them ASAP.
So, how simple was that? No memorizing, no sentences you have to remember. Here are the notes and “chords” for the bass clef:
This is assuming you have a key signature of either C major or A natural minor. If you have a flat or sharp key signature the actual chord names spelled out by the lines and spaces will be different. However, they will still be the same letters.
Get it? Do you understand? It’s as simple as that – G9 and Am7 – DONE!
Treble Clef: learn how to build Em7b9 and Fmaj7
The treble clef is also known as the G-clef since the symbol resembles a cursive capital G.
I started with the bass clef because there is a little bit of an issue with the lines for the treble clef. I’ll explain after I tell you the “chords” and once again assuming C major or A natural minor:
- The notes of the lines for the treble clef are the notes in an E minor 7 flat 9 chord (Em7b9 = E-G-B-D-F).
- The notes of the spaces for the treble clef are the notes in an F major 7th chord (Fmaj7 = F-A-C-E).
Let’s handle the easy one. The 7th chord built on the IV in C major is a major 7th chord with the root of F. I’m sure you’ve seen that chord. However, no one, I mean nobody, ever uses a minor 7th chord with a flat 9.
That doesn’t matter. What we are trying to do here is remember the notes for the lines of the treble clef and Em7b9 does that. If you must know, I would call that chord G13/E.
Here are those notes\chords expressed in standard notation:
I have no final thoughts for this article other than you can move to another perplexing topic in music, music theory, or guitar playing. You can check off your list trying to remember the notes of the bass and treble clef – you got it now – congratulations!