How to Read the Left Hand in Piano Sheet Music

By Emily Manthei ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Blank staff lines
  • Pencil
  • Sheet music
Reading the bass clef allows you to play more complex pieces.

The piano is a popular musical instrument featuring 88 keys in repeating groups of seven notes, labeled A through G. The key in the middle of the piano, middle C, separates the bass clef from the treble clef, or the left hand from the right hand. All notes written in the bass clef are usually played with the left hand on the lower registers of the piano. Reading the bass clef requires you to know where a few key notes hit the scale, whereby finding the rest will be very straightforward.

Draw middle C on the bass clef staff. The "staff" is the five lines separated by spaces on which all notes are written. Middle C is written as a note with a line drawn through it, just above the staff.

Pencil in the other notes. The space below middle C is B, the top line of the staff is A, and the pattern begins again with the next lower space, G. Work backwards again through the notes, labeling them as you draw them. From middle C to the bottom line, your staff should read: C-B-A-G-F-E-D-C-B-A-G

Memorize the notes in the spaces of the scale from bottom to top, A-C-E-G, by remembering this mnemonic device from Piano-Lessons-Info.com: "All Cows Eat Grass." When you see, for example, the third space filled by a note, you will remember the corresponding note is E, for "Eat." Or think of your own easy-to-remember saying.

Memorize another mnemonic device to keep the notes on the lines in your mind, again reading from bottom to top, G-B-D-F-A. Piano-Lessons-Info.com suggests using, "Great Big Ducks Fly Away." Again, creating your own phrase is also helpful.

Open a book of sheet music to test yourself by pointing to a note in the bass clef and saying its name aloud. Check your progress by referring back to the answer key with both names and notes that you made in Step 2.

About the Author

Emily Manthei holds a masters degree from the University of Edinburgh and has written for publications as diverse as the "Oxford Journal of Theological Studies," "Emanuel Levy Film Reviews," "USA Today" and "Northern Express Magazine." She also writes screenplays for short and feature films.