I'm not musician, I'm old man and I would like to hear again some specific music. I have the sheet music and I bought a piano. I was reading this Wikipedia article and would like to identify the notes on the piano:

enter image description here

The above clef is 'Treble', and has two sharps.

The below clef, is it a bass clef? It does have two sharps as well.

To which piano keys does the first note correspond?

enter image description here

The above clef is 'Treble', and has two flats.

The below clef, is it a bass clef? It does have two flats as well.

To which piano keys does the first note correspond?


5 Answers 5


Yes, that's a bass clef / F-clef. They've had many different versions in the past, as indicated in the Wikipedia article you linked to. It mentions French and British publications but it looks like Spanish music used it as well.

enter image description here

So the first notes in the first example are D and A, and in the second example they're both B♭.

  • 1
    At least in British music publishing, this is an old-fashioned version — it was the standard form in music published up to around the mid-20th century, before gradually going out in favour of the usual modern form.
    – PLL
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 12:32
  • 2
    It's used in the majority of American hymnals I've seen typeset before mid-century. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 18:27

It's an "F" clef.

Summary of historic clef signs including bass clef...

enter image description here

...from Stanford, A History of Music

You might want to get away from calling them "bass" or "soprano" etc and use the letter they indicate like "F" clef, "C" clef, etc. because the history starts with literally writing the letter on a line to set the tones of the staff!

F clef often has some kind of double dot centered around a line.

C clef has a little "c" or box thing centered around a line.

G clef has a spiral centered around a line.

When looking at old hand-written manuscripts these signs can be written really sloppy so it's nice to know a basic way to identify clefs. Also, watch out for what line a clef is centered on. G clef is normally on the second line, but in some old French scores it can be on the first line. And then again some hand written scores are so sloppy the clef really isn't centered clearly so you may need to take clues from the key signature and notes.

  • Taking clues from the key signatures might not be a great idea. Many conventional composers (who rely on the circle of fifths and don't use non-western scales) just put the sharps/flats quite arbitrarily, like they do with the clef.
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 9:16
  • @yo' but given those conditions the number of sharps / flats is still useful right?
    – AakashM
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 8:31
  • The key signature certain gives clues. A Bb and Eb suggest Bb flat major or G minor, or if it's an old score maybe C minor. Combine that with examining a passage that looks like a cadence and you can start deducing the letters of the staff. Of course this assumes the music was written by the certain historic conventions. Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 13:46
  • @AakashM Yep, the number of the messy symbols (between the messy clef and a C, slashed C or 2 glyphs that resemble numbers atop each other) is significant, and you also need to be able to decicpher whether they look more like # or like b :D
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 15:08

Wikipedia says:

Varying shapes of different clefs persisted until very recent times. The F-clef was, until as late as the 1980s in some cases (such as hymnals), or in British and French publications, written like this: Old bassclef

enter image description here

But even if we couldn’t consult wikipedia we can derive from the key signature that this must be the F clef and F is on the 4th line (counting upwards):

  • F sharp is at the same line (Hymn 191)
  • The 2 b-flats are at the same place as in our conventional F-clef (Hymn 115)
  • In the upper system we have Bb and Eb, thus we know where these tones are in the lower system.
  • The second last b-flat is always Do (doremi). This tells us that the notes of the tenor and bass are the root tones of the Bb major chord. If these 2 notes are Bb, we can derive: on the 4th line is F. This must be a version of the F-clef !
  • 1
    The second-to-last flat is always Do in movable Do Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 16:15

It's the bass clef. Standard. Often called the F clef because the two dots are either side of the F note line. It has various incarnations, but it's still the basic bass clef. Whatever strange sign is there, the two dots will tell 'F clef'. So, the two sharps will always be F and C.


To which piano keys does the first note correspond?

When you say "note", I think you mean "chord" (several notes played at once).

We could, with effort, draw an entire piano keyboard on Stack Exchange, indicate middle-C and then tell you how to count up and down to find the right notes. However I believe this would be unproductive. Also, at your stage of learning, it's the wrong way to go about it in my opinion.

We couldn't possibly give you all the necessary information here - we would end up designing a new course from scratch or writing a book.

May I suggest that you:

  1. Go onto Youtube and type in search terms such as "learn piano" and "beginning piano". There are plenty of videos already there that will help you.

  2. Go to a music shop or shop online for a beginning piano book. These are inexpensive.

  3. Find out if there is a piano teacher nearby who will teach you the basics.

The pieces that you have shown look as though they would probably be suitable for beginners. Good luck and enjoy the journey!

  • 1
    This doesn't address the specific question at hand. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 14:42
  • I understand your comment but the question "The below clef, is it a bass clef?" has been answered about as thoroughly as it could by others - and it isn't even the main question. The main question is "To which piano keys does the first note correspond?" and my answer is, "Don't ask here, it isn't productive. You will find plenty of answers on-line." In a sense I am pointing out the lack of prior research on the part of the OP and suggesting how to do it profitably. I prefer this to simply voting to close on the basis of lack of research. Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 0:25

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