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Reading Requirements: Bass and Treble Clef?

Q: I can already read treble clef fairly instinctively, having played the clarinet for years. I started playing jazz (on bass) a few months ago, and now can find my way around most lead sheets, but my question is: should I bother to learn bass clef, when treble clef feels more natural to me? I rarely have a need to read bass clef, since lead sheets only notate the melody, in treble clef. As I am only beginning to learn to play the bass from notation, as opposed to TAB, or preferably by ear, trying to learn both at once seems to be causing more confusion than good.

A: I would consider your goals for the instrument and weigh that against the frustration of trying to tackle too many things at once.

If your goal is to become an in-demand bassist for any occasion, you will want to be a strong with your bass clef reading. If you are simply trying to get better and aren’t worried about getting unfamiliar notation on a gig, I wouldn’t worry about it. Or if the reading is just for your own ability to read lead sheets and work on material at home, I wouldn’t add the extra stress of working up your bass clef reading.

Your ability to read treble clef will serve you a little better in some arenas. There are certainly more instructional books available for treble clef instruments, for example.

If you aspire to “go pro” then you probably should get on it and become as proficient as possible with both clefs.

With any question like this, I usually just ask the person to look at the ideal end result, for themselves.

What do you want out of this thing and where do you hope it leads you? The answer is usually clear as to whether or not something is worth spending time on.

Readers, what is your experience?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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