The bass clef key signatures have a lot of similarities with the treble clef key signatures. In bass clef, you will also find seven flat keys and seven sharp keys. When you add the Key of C (no flats or sharps), there is a grand total of fifteen key signatures.
The bass clef key signatures can also be divided into two groups; the sharp keys and the flat keys. As a quick review, you can find the key signature right after the clef sign. Since we are focusing on the bass clef, all of the key signatures you will see below are found after the bass clef symbol on the music staff.
The Bass Clef Sharp Keys
There are a total of seven sharp keys in bass clef. They are: G, D, A, E, B, F#, and C#.
G = 1 sharp, F#
D = 2 sharps, F# and C#
A = 3 sharps, F#, C#, and G#
E = 4 sharps, F#, C#, G# and D#
B = 5 sharps, F#, C#, G#, D# and A#
F# = 6 sharps, F#, C#, G#, D#, A# and E#
C# = 7 sharps, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E# and B#
Notice that all of the sharps listed above follow the order of sharps. Now, take a closer look at how they appear on the music staff.
The sharps follow the same order on the music staff with the inside box of the tic-tac-toe symbol centered on the same exact line or space every time. The F# will always be located on the fourth line, the C# in the second space, the G# in the fourth space, the D# on the third line, the A# in the first space, the E# in the third space, and the B# on the second line.
Also notice how the sharp keys follow a pattern of being five notes apart from each other. To help you see this, start on G (1 sharp) and move to D (2 sharps). By doing this, you are moving forward through the musical alphabet every five notes. In music theory, this is known as the circle of fifths.
The Bass Clef Flat Keys
We also have a total of seven flat keys in the bass clef. They are: F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and Cb.
F = 1 flat, Bb
Bb = 2 flats, Bb and Eb
Eb = 3 flats, Bb, Eb and Ab
Ab = 4 flats, Bb, Eb, Ab and Db
Db = 5 flats, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db and Gb
Gb = 6 flats, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb and Cb
Cb = 7 flats, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb and Fb
Again, all of the flats listed above follow the order of flats. This can be found on the music staff too.
You will always find the flats listed in the same order on the music staff with the little belly of the flat symbol centered on the same exact line or space. The Bb is always located on the second line, the Eb in the third space, the Ab in the first space, the Db on the third line, the Gb on the bottom line, and the Cb in the second space.
In looking at the flat keys listed above, notice how the flats move forward through the alphabet every four notes. If you start at the top (F) and move down (to Bb, Eb, etc.) you will see how this works.
Now, go backwards starting with Cb and work your up (to Gb, Db, etc.). The notes move forward every five notes through the musical alphabet. This is similar to the sharps listed above, except with the sharps you have to start with G and move down to get the same result.
So, why do the sharps and flats appear on the music staff in the same way every time? To help you see at a glance what is in your key signature. This speeds up the reading process by quite a bit.
Try memorizing all of the bass clef key signatures this week. Having them available in your memory comes in very handy when reading music. Make some flashcards or practice by drawing them out on a piece of paper. Maybe you could look at several pieces of music and try naming the sharps and flats in the key signatures. However way you practice reading doesn’t matter as long as it is effective.