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how to Read Double Bass Sheet Music

Reading double bass sheet music isn't as complex as you think

How To Read Double Bass Sheet Music

Understanding how to read music is unquestionably a different skill from actually playing the double bass. Together with our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Double Bass’ collection, this unique part will provide you with just enough details to begin practicing this amazing skill.

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Precisely what is published music?

So how exactly does somebody from Singapore publish something, and another person in the USA can understand it? It’s because they observe the rules of reading and writing in the English language. Published written music notation is the same thing. If you’re in New York or London, so long as you can decipher the symbols on the page, you can play the music.

Types of early notation have been found on tablets going back as far as 2000 BC. Modern’ staff notation’, the method we now use, was made by Catholic monks to standardise church music.

How To Read Double Bass Sheet Music

Should You Bother Learning How To Read Music?

Let’s be totally truthful. Finding out how to read music is a tricky thing to do.

If you are looking to play pop music, it’s not so vital that you learn how to read music. Having said that, if you do, you’ll find life a lot easier later on.

It is possible to absolutely go down this path if you choose. Just understand that like riding a bicycle, reading music is a skill you never forget – and the benefits massively outnumber the downsides.

Which Technique Should You Use?

When you learnt to read and write, did you handle them as the same process? Of course not. Controlling your hand actions by using a pencil, discovering the patterns of characters, focusing on how letters join together are all a radically different skill from using your eyes to find out what a combination of letters spells.

The process of learning to read music is actually comparable.

Playing the double bass is really a radically different skill from reading the sheet music in front of you. Quite a few badly experienced instructors attempt to teach the two of these factors together – but the truth is know better! Master them as individual skills that overlap. This way you’ll succeed a lot quicker.

Learn How To Read Music

The Bass Clef Staff

For double bass, staff notation is actually structured around something called the bass staff. This is made up of a stave (the name for the lines) of five lines and four spaces. It is usually labelled using a bass clef (the thing at the beginning of the line that looks like a backwards C)!

Middle C lies in the space at the very top of the stave, upon an imaginary line.

Notes can sit on a line or in a space. The vertical placement (height) of the note specifies the pitch. The higher up the stave, the higher the pitch. When the note would need to move higher or below the stave lines, we add mini lines for each note that is higher or lower. These lines are referred to as ledger lines.

Bass Clef Staff

The notes

In order to avoid counting down from middle C each and every time, we are able to make use of memory aids to recognise the notes. The four spaces of the bass staff read the phrase “All Cows Eat Grass”.


The five lines of the bass staff are GBDFA. The acronyms that are common are “Good Boys Do Fine Always” or “Great Big Dragons Fly Around.” We personally feel they are pretty rubbish, and it’s far more fun to make up your own!

And to reveal the actual way it all looks, here is the whole Bass Clef staff
Bass Clef Notes

Exactly what are the length of the notes?

When reading through sheet music, we read from left to right. Now we know what location on the stave creates what note, we need extra instruction from the printed symbol. We need to know how long to hold the note for.

The shape of the note lets you know how long to play it.

  • A whole note (or if you are in the UK, it’s called a Semibreve) is an empty circle and lasts four counts.
  • A half note (or if you are in the UK, it’s called a Minim) adds a stem and lasts two counts.
  • A quarter note (or if you are in the UK, it’s called a Crotchet) fills in the circle and lasts one count.
Note Length
How To Read Double Bass Sheet Music

How To Read Double bass sheet Music - Summary


Using those fundamental details, you can now go away and use what you’ve learned. It’s really not as challenging as you believed – and you’ll soon have the hang of it with a little bit of determination.

Naturally, there are lots of additional aspects to eventually understand – but for now, that should provide you with a good headstart!

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