I've taught myself to play the piano when I was young, but I never really learned to read sheet music. Usually I would just look at a synthesia tutorial online or try to do it by ear (which I'm not that good at).

I've decided to take it a bit more serious and buy a new digital piano with weighted keys etc. and also want to learn how to read sheet music. I started with the treble clef notes yesterday and I can identify all the notes fairly quickly already (40 notes in 1 minute without mistakes). Now if I try to learn the bass clef notes, I will automatically pretend it's a treble clef but drop down 1 line. This is also fairly fast but I'm afraid this way of learning it, is the wrong way. I don't want to always keep using this extra link to identify the right note.

Is it bad to continue practicing like this? Or do you think I will eventually automatically do it without having to think about what note it would be on the treble clef?

  • 6
    Eventually your brain will instantly associate lines and spaces with notes, either due to your method being great or it being so annoying it'll naturally try to find a way around it. Jan 28, 2019 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


I really don't think it's a bad way. Especially as it works for you!

There are several methods of reading notes, and in the initial stages, where you are, anything that's successful proves its point.

Eventually you'll cut out the middle stage. At the moment, you're calculating what the note is called on the staff - either of them - and then finding that note of the same name on the keys.

Eventually, you won't be thinking of individual note names - no-one thinks that fast !What will happen is you'll be playing a note, and see that the next one is on the next line, space, up two lines, whatever, and automatically hit it. Its name is academic, as long as you have a point from which to go, you'll find the next one, sort of by interval, but you probably won't even be thinking 'that's a M3, I'm here, so I need to go there'.

Others have pointed out why the grand stave works as it does. That's fine, but if your method works, and it seems to, stick with it, until it atrophies and you don't need it any more!


I suppose the 'correct' way to think about the clefs is to understand what they are actually supposed to indicate. Each clef indicates which line is the reference note. (I'm not sure if there is a specific terms for the reference note.)

So, the basic clef types are 'G' (treble), 'F' (bass), and 'C' (alto and tenor):

  • the little spiral of the G clef shows the line where G is
  • the double dots of the F clef shows where F is
  • the center of the two curves of the C clef shows where C is

enter image description here

Instead of 'dropping down a line,' you can try to read from the F line as indicated by the clef.


This is very bad, don't do this - you will always be confused!

A good practice is to draw the grand staff with a space between the lines that you can write the names of the notes directly on and between the lines (where the dots are meant to be:

starting with scales than copying tunes and finally your own melodies and ideas.

Counting the notes per minute is a very good idea, but transposing is bad.

Another picture is the scales: you're coming from the swimming pool

enter image description here

  • 1
    Can't understand why you state 'transposing is bad'. I see nothing wrong in it - after all, that's what the C clef does! Guitarists do it all the time, albeit a whole octave. In fact, it was after a couple of years playing that it dawned on me that's what we do!
    – Tim
    Jan 28, 2019 at 17:15
  • This kind of transposing is not the same what guitarists do when they transpose the patterns from bend to bend. It took a long time to me to develop reading the bass clef without transposing and to understand the system of the grand staff just because I used to know only the treble clef as I started piano playing only with 13 years. What I mean is rather in the direction of Michael Curtis post. I will show you tomorrow what I mean. You will say everyone has to find his own way, there are no rules for everyone: I fully agree. Jan 28, 2019 at 21:16
  • Well, @Tim, it was interesting, until you snaked its accept. Now, it's just a downvoted answer :)
    – user45266
    Jan 29, 2019 at 5:01
  • 1
    @user45266 - perhaps it's a dyslexic way of writing 'sneaked'..?
    – Tim
    Jan 29, 2019 at 7:43
  • 2
    You're right about not accepting an answer too early. Shouldn't have done that before I hear all sides. My view on things can change when I hear different perspectives. And if I see a post get dislikes, it's obvious most people don't agree with it.
    – TJRC
    Jan 29, 2019 at 17:16

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