Concepts of music - pitch - bass clef notes

Students will learn how to read these on the staff and write short, simple compositions in the bass clef.


4 - 5 lessons


Learning notes of the bass clef and composing in C Major.


Pitch refers to highness and lowness of sound. There are seven letters (pitch names) in the musical alphabet. Students will learn how to read these on the staff and write short, simple compositions in the bass clef.


Stage 4

A student:

  • 4.5 notates compositions using traditional and/or non-traditional notation
  • 4.9 demonstrates musical literacy through the use of notation, terminology and the reading and interpreting of scores used in the music selected for study


Music is a language that involves reading notation. Using traditional notation, students will use critical thinking skills to interpret and compose music written for instruments such as the keyboard (left hand) and melodic percussion such as the xylophone or glockenspiel.

Music written in the bass clef refers to notes located to the left of middle C on the keyboard. Instruments that use the bass clef include cello, tuba, double bass, bassoon and bass guitar.

Keyboard showing that bass clef notes are to the left of middle C
Image: Bass clef notes are to the left of middle C

The following sites can be referred to for a better understanding.

  • 8 allows you to view the staff, clefs and ledger lines as separate slides. It includes the treble clef (which can be omitted from this lesson sequence).
  • How to read music - Tim Hansen (00:05:23) is a short film that explains clefs and time signatures. Please note that this video uses American terminology for note values.

Cross-curriculum content and key competencies

  • Numeracy
  • Literacy


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

There are only seven letters in the musical alphabet: a, b, c, d, e, f and g. There are more than seven different pitches used in many pieces and songs, so once we get to G, we go back to A and start the cycle again.

The five lines upon which music is written is called the staff.

Staff showing the bass clef and demonstrating that bas clef notes are to the left of middle C
Image: Staff showing bass clef notes

Low E and middle C are written on a ledger line. This is a small line that extends the staff so that more notes can be included.

The pitch name of a note is determined by where the note head (round part of the note) sits; either on a line or in a space (between two lines). It does not matter which direction the stem goes or what the note value is.

Keyboard and staff with the middle c aligned
Image: Comparing the staff and the keyboard location of the bass clef note

Activity one

  • Have students watch introductory videos on the bass clef and write down three dot points of information. Some videos include:
  • In pairs or small groups establish four different dot points of information based on each individuals' points.
  • As a class, come up with five to six different points of information regarding notes in the bass clef. Students can write these into their books.

Activity two

  • Divide the class in two. Team A and Team B.
  • Somewhere on the board have bass clef notes drawn, with their pitch names underneath for reference.
  • Draw eight different bass clef notes on the board. One at a time, each student from Team A has to name the pitch of the note. Keep a tally of correct answers. If someone is incorrect, a person from Team B may answer (and is eligible for that point). Team A continues to name notes until all eight are finished.
  • Draw eight new notes and repeat the process with Team B.
  • Once Team B's eight notes are complete, draw a new set of eight and begin where Team A left off.
  • Repeat this process until everyone on each team has had a chance to name a note.
  • This activity can be extended by:
    • removing the reference notes on the board
    • changing the note values of the notes you draw.

Activity three

Students will:

Activity four

Students will:

Activity five

Students will:

  1. draw the following bass clef, time signature and bar lines on manuscript paper (staff) in their book, in pencil.
Bass clef and 4x4 time notation on empty staff
Image: Bass clef and timing notation
  1. notate the two-bar ostinato (above the staff) that they composed for the non-melodic percussion sequence. Alternatively, the teacher can write a two-bar rhythm on the board for the class to copy.
  2. copy their rhythm onto the staff, as notes of the C Major scale:
  • the C Major scale is eight notes in alphabetical order from one C up to the next C.
  • start and end on either low C or middle C. Notes can be used in any order or repeated.
  • try and move in steps (pitches close together) rather than leaps (pitches far apart), as this will sound nicer.
  • ensure that the rhythm of the pitches on the staff matches the rhythm written above (including the addition of any rests).
  • the end result should look similar to below (with students' own rhythm and pitch).
Sample music notation showing rythm and pitch notation for bass clef
Image: Rythm and pitch notation for bass clef

Literacy and numeracy

Students will:

  • understand note values and their groupings for composition
  • learn how to read notation in the bass clef
  • learn and utilise metalanguage
    • bass clef - the sign at the beginning of each line of staff that indicates notes to be played from middle C and below (to the left)
    • staff/manuscript - the five parallel lines upon which notes are written
    • scale - series of 7 letter names in alphabetical order upon which pieces and songs are based.



Students could:

  • compose four or six bar compositions
  • create complex rhythms upon which to base their C Major piece
  • play their composition on the keyboard or a melodic percussion instrument
  • transcribe their composition into a music software program such as Finale or Sibelius.

Life skills

Life skills outcomes

A student:

  • LS 6 a student experiments in representing and recording musical sounds

Students could:

  • insert notes onto a pre-written two bar score with rhythm above
  • complete the gap-fill exercise - bass based on notes of the bass clef.


Formative feedback - student participation in-class activities.

Students can assess their level of understanding by playing the following online games

Summative feedback - this unit can conclude with an extended version of activity 5, for assessment.

Reference list and resources

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