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As a beginner, I'll admit to messing things up when the two staffs are specified on the treble clef for both hands, or when switching from bass clef to treble clef in the left hand. When that happens at the end of a line, I've noticed that they put a little treble clef symbol after the end of the measure to tip the player off that he'll be transitioning from bass clef to treble clef in the left hand. As someone who has spent twenty years reading only the treble clef, first on violin, and then on classical guitar, it is taking some getting used to but I am making progress. Of course, my skill in reading the bass clef is behind my skill in reading the table clef, but I'm sure it will get better with time.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It's generally pedagogically not to give a student everything one knows about a topic or possible exceptions to some idea in the beginning. So in the beginning it could be argued that thinking that the bass clef is the left hand clef is a good approach.


This is one of a number of pedagogical ideas. The problem is when a student thinks that this is how things are. One approach is to tell students that one is looking at a general guideline which we will use for now. That is different than basing oneself on "foundations" that don't actually exist.

When I taught, it was at the formative level, so this was an important concept.

In learning to play an instrument, we are also training reflexes, the ear, etc., and not just the mind.

In any case, I put this out there because it is always possible that someone does have the idea the clefs and hands go together. We are constantly getting beginners with all kinds of backgrounds. smile

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Originally Posted by keystring
The point is that the bass clef is meant for a range of notes that are "low" and thus easily represented on that clef; the treble clef is for a range of notes that are "high" and ditto ..... and the clefs do not represent hands - only a range of notes. The problem is that when we start with an idea, that's what we internalize. It is probably better to know from the onset that clefs don't represent which hand plays what.

Thoughts?

I also had a very hard time learning bass clef, and I chose the opposite path of what you suggest. The method book I used started with treble clef both for right and left hand, but I did not want to internalise the treble clef for left hand, so instead I painstakingly rewrote all pieces in musescore, and put the left hand in bass clef.

Now, one and a half year later, I find that playing left hand in bass clef is rooted in me. Yet it is not hard at all to read the treble clef when it appears in the left hand. But when the bass clef appears in the right hand, I easily get confused.


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Alfred's and Finger Power gave me inline clef changes early on. That kept me from thinking of bass/treble being for a particular hand. What did come back to bite me thinking that the lower clef was for the left hand and the upper one was for the right. The exercises where hands crossed over should have disabused me of this notion but they didn't. I got to an exercise in Pianomarvel where the fingering indicated that the right hand started in the bass clef (lower) and continued up into the treble clef (upper). Well, either that or some painful acrobatics on the bench. I believe that where I was falling down was not realizing that sometimes people will write something differently than how I might prefer and it's time to start learning to think for myself.

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Thanks for the reminder OP. Most of what I have seen so far has been with the left hand as the bass cleft. When it comes to my composing I usually think of chords on the left hand and melody on the right. I know from watching piano video recitals on youtube that it isn't that way though.


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Originally Posted by HarmonySmurf
Thanks for the reminder OP. Most of what I have seen so far has been with the left hand as the bass cleft. When it comes to my composing I usually think of chords on the left hand and melody on the right. I know from watching piano video recitals on youtube that it isn't that way though.


Hi HS
Good for you that you are composing! Consciously change the melody to the bass clef and you will add a wonderful layer to your composition. You might want to listen in the composer’s Lounge if you are not already doing this: Jot down for yourself what you like, what you don’t like it how do you think it could be improved. How could more variety be added?

Disclaimer that I am not a composer—- just an envious pianist 😊

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Originally Posted by keystring

The point is that the bass clef is meant for a range of notes that are "low" and thus easily represented on that clef; the treble clef is for a range of notes that are "high" and ditto ..... and the clefs do not represent hands - only a range of notes. The problem is that when we start with an idea, that's what we internalize. It is probably better to know from the onset that clefs don't represent which hand plays what.


I am glad that you brought up this topic. It seems to me that many pianists shy away from reading music beyond the beginner level because they have a hard time making this conceptual shift. And, good luck reading a Bach fugue or an open choral score if you read music in terms of "hands".

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Originally Posted by MichaelJK
I am glad that you brought up this topic. It seems to me that many pianists shy away from reading music beyond the beginner level because they have a hard time making this conceptual shift. And, good luck reading a Bach fugue or an open choral score if you read music in terms of "hands".

I'm not sure that I was writing about levels. wink What I was addressing was the idea of the bass clef being for the left hand, the treble clef for the right hand. There are teachers who don't give music that is exclusively that, and one member here cited two beginner level works that switch clefs very early on beyond those stereotypes.

At the beginner level might one want to have either hand playing either clef, so as to not from a hand-clef association? That is the direction this was going.

And also, just to put out there that clefs are not always bass clef = LH, treble clef = RH.

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I've seen enough music now to say you need be able to play bass clef notes with the right hand, and treble clef notes with the left. And I've seen beginner music where the clefs do change, so I would think this should be the case from the start.


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Originally Posted by keystring

At the beginner level might one want to have either hand playing either clef, so as to not from a hand-clef association?


Yes, definitely.

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When someone is "reading" piano music at the beginner's level, the pieces you play have very few notes. The L would play 5 white keys to the left of the mid-C and the R would play 5 notes to the right of the mid-C. As your level of playing progresses, the L & R parts don't end at the mid-C.

In the beginning, I'm better at reading the Treble Clef from violin playing. I could easily run through the 1st movement of Mozart Sonata in C and Bach Italian Concerto in F because there are sections in these pieces where the L is notated in the Treble Clef so I can work out the rest by ear.

During the holidays I played a few Christmas pieces with my music group. And many of the pieces were familiar. Singing a Christmas tune is 1 thing but playing it on an instrument you can intentionally go 1 octave higher or lower from what is notated on paper to sound more interesting.

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Not just the Bass Clef; but the bottom stave can be for the right hand. The 2nd Piece of Music I learnt when restarting Piano was the second movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. There, except for the measures 37 to 43 and from 59 on, only the top line is shown in the top stave. Yet to play this you need to play the second part with the right hand. That is mostly shown in the bass clef on the bottom stave.

Now when I started to learn the piece it was way above my capabilities; but I think I made an OK performance of it in ABF Recital #50. Used it today when auditioning a grand piano for possible purchase.


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I've found that doing duets for fun and taking the secondo part is improving my bass reading and skill tremendously. I know, earlier in my studies, that the G below middle C just did not compute in my memory. For some reason I had to stop and think hard about it. Now, bass clef is starting to be natural.


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Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by keystring

At the beginner level might one want to have either hand playing either clef, so as to not from a hand-clef association?


Yes, definitely.

Michael, thanks for weighing in again.

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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
I've seen enough music now to say you need be able to play bass clef notes with the right hand, and treble clef notes with the left. And I've seen beginner music where the clefs do change, so I would think this should be the case from the start.


So again beginner music with clef changes - nice to know about.

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Thanks to everyone for your input. A lot of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. It's also made me think about it again.

Especially, there was one idea that we are adults so we can figure it out. I think that is true, we can. I'm also looking at how we learn; how body, mind and senses work together. In my case, I was simply given a piano and sheet music as a child and expected I'd somehow figure it out. There was a slim book for adult autodidacts (I was 8) which gave me enough I guess. I won't go into the usual story of the weird reading that developed. I think all the music had LH bass clef, RH treble clef, simply because of the range and nature of the music. Returning to the piano decades later, I worked with a teacher who made sure students had a mix of clefs from early on. Doing remediation, I did early pieces as well.

My experience: While I understand it all intellectually, I detected some weaknesses. Recently I experimented with something, and the wiring of hand-to-clef seemed to exist, so that playing bass clef music with the RH seemed a bit slower for new music and vice versa. This surprised me, because I've been doing this for a while.

The other thing is "clef awareness". If when you play music, LH music always has a bass clef, RH music always has a treble clef, you don't have to be aware of the clef or look for the clef, because "automatically" you "know" what's there. I've had to circle clef changes, or remind myself. It is not a thing that I automatically look for, and I can play a thing wrong until I notice "Well, that sounds funny." I suspect that if I had worked with clefs going to either hand early, I'd have a greater awareness of clefs, looking out for them.

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Originally Posted by keystring


The other thing is "clef awareness". If when you play music, LH music always has a bass clef, RH music always has a treble clef, you don't have to be aware of the clef or look for the clef, because "automatically" you "know" what's there. I've had to circle clef changes, or remind myself. It is not a thing that I automatically look for, and I can play a thing wrong until I notice "Well, that sounds funny." I suspect that if I had worked with clefs going to either hand early, I'd have a greater awareness of clefs, looking out for them.


Not necessarily. As I said I have the same problem, not seeing the odd clef changes even though I do not associate the clefs with hands and never did. It's more about expecting the clefs to be in order on the sheet, having an upper treble clef and lower bass clef. When this order is disturbed and one is not very attentive to the markings on the score, it is natural not to notice. I am sure the best cure for this would be to play lots of music with frequent clef changes.

Playing polyphonic music early on probably taught me to concentrate on the voices and how they move in and between the hands regardless of the clefs. Things like clef changes are just "background noise" on the sheet to me so easily go unnoticed...

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In the realm of clefs and what one is or is not attuned to, I can play either clef on the piano with either hand, on either staff. Also I can read bass clef for voice (I’m an alto, but occasionally they have us singing the tenor line, and occasionally the tenor line is written with the bass clef).

But I have immense difficulty playing the bass clef on the flute.

Of course this does not usually arise, but these days I play flute in a small tango orchestra where the music is sometimes written “a la parilla” : four staves — melody line (treble clef), countermelody line (treble clef), piano part (treble and bass clefs). This is like an expanded lead sheet format, where sometimes at least some of us are improvising somewhat with how we accompany the melody. So sometimes I want to pick up motifs from the piano’s bass clef. And I find it frightfully difficult on the flute.

I imagine it will get better with practice. I should add it to my practice routine.


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