treble clef blues – I can only read bass clef :(

Questions and AnswersCategory: General Questiontreble clef blues – I can only read bass clef :(
Ryan asked 8 months ago

I learnt to play euphonium in school reading bass clef, but I want to join a brass band where all the music is written in treble clef.  What can I do?  Is there some tricks I can use to quickly read treble clef music?

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1 Answers
Scott Kardash answered 8 months ago

Lower brass players will encounter this issue, especially when they play in brass bands.  ALL brass band parts are written in treble clef (except for the bass trombone, which is in bass clef).
To complicate the issue even further, the treble clef parts are transposed into Bb pitch.  This means that a note written as C in treble clef will be written as a Bb in bass clef.  Bass clef parts are written in concert pitch – that is, the notes will sound the same if played on a piano.
Trumpet parts are always written in treble clef – Bb pitch.
It can seem overwhelming to keep all this in your head when reading treble clef (Bb) parts, if you’ve learnt to play by reading parts written in (concert) bass clef.
However, there are some visual tricks you can use to quickly transpose parts, on the fly.  With a little practice, it will become 2nd nature.  When reading treble clef;

  1. imagine the note 5 notes above it (up 2 ledger lines or 2 spaces). So a middle C in treble clef will be written as a Bb in bass clef on the 2nd ledger line.
  2. Imagine the key signature has 2 extra flats. So, the treble clef key is F (with one flat) will be written in bass clef as Eb (with 3 flats).

e.g. the Bb scale in bass clef will be written as the C scale in treble clef.
That’s it. Accidentals need to also be considered, but this simple mind trick should get you going on the right track.
As an aside, tenor clef can be read like treble clef notes with bass clef key signatures.
If this explanation isn’t clear enough, leave some comments and I’ll write a more detailed post with music notation examples.

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