How To Read Ledger Lines

In music, the staff is a set of five horizontal lines and four horizontal spaces which are used as a template for identifying musical notes. These five lines and four spaces have the capacity to hold nine individual natural notes and their accidentals.

Staff_COUNT.png

The notes of a staff whose letter names are designated by a treble clef go from the first E above middle C until the note F one octave above.

TrebleClefNOTES.png
TrebleClefNOTES_keyboard.png

Likewise, the notes on a staff with a bass clef go from the note G two octaves below middle C until the note A just two letter names below middle C.

BassClefNOTES.png
BassClefNOTES_keyboard.png

However, by just looking at the keyboard of a piano we can see that there are many more than just these eighteen notes allotted by both clefs.

Ledger lines are short lines placed above or below the staff which are used for notes that exceed the tonal boundaries of the staff.

For example, this key is two notes above the pitch which we just identified as being the top note of a staff with a treble clef.

SmallStaff_A5.png

In order to read and write this pitch in musical notation we will add one ledger line above the top line of that staff and place the note on that line.

Keyboard_A5.png

Likewise, the note middle C is two keys below the note which we identified as being the bottom line of the staff.

SmallStaff_C4.png

Therefore, in order to identify middle C on a treble clef we will look for one ledger line below the bottom line of the staff.

Keyboard_C4.png

On the other hand, when working with the letter names of a bass clef, because the top line of the staff is the note A two keys below middle C, to play middle C on a staff with a bass clef we are going to add one ledger line above the top line of the staff.

SmallStaffBASS_C4.png

Now, it is important to know that a note on the first ledger line above a staff with a bass clef, and a note on the first ledger line below a staff with a treble clef, are in fact the same exact pitch - middle C.

LedgerLineCOMPARE_C4.png

Memorizing the notes found on each ledger line above or below either staff can be as easy as memorizing the notes found within the staff.

Similar to the way that we use the word FACE to memorize the notes on the spaces of a staff with a treble clef, the same method may be applied to memorizing the ledger lines above the staff as well.

We already know that the top line of a staff with a treble clef is the note F.

SmallStaff_F5.png

Starting with this note and adding a ledger line for the remaining letters of the word FACE, we can easily see that the first ledger line above the staff is the note A, which is then followed by the note C, which is followed by the note E.