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.

TrebleClefABOVE.png

To read the notes below a staff with a treble clef we are going to use middle C as our guidepost. Knowing that middle C is the first line below a treble clef and the first line above a bass clef, when reading ledger lines below middle C on the treble clef, we are going to consider each line the same as if we were reading down from the top line of a staff with a bass clef.

The first line below middle C on a bass clef is the top line of the staff - the note A. Therefore, the first ledger line below middle C on a treble clef will be that same pitch, A.

LedgerLineCOMPARE_A3.png

In that same way, the third ledger line below a staff with a treble clef is the same pitch as the second staff line from the top of a bass clef, F.

LedgerLineCOMPARE_F3.png

This same method may be applied to the ledger lines above the staff with a bass clef as well.

Each note above middle C on a bass clef can be read the same as if we were reading up from the bottom line of a staff with a treble clef.

For example, the first ledger line above middle C on a bass clef is the same exact pitch as the bottom line on a staff with a treble clef, the note E.

LedgerLineCOMPARE_E4.png

Likewise, two ledger lines above middle C on a staff with a bass clef is the same note as two lines from the bottom of a staff with a treble clef.

LedgerLineCOMPARE_G4.png

And finally, when reading the letter names of the notes on each ledger line below a bass clef we can once again simply use the word FACE. However, the only difference from how we've used it previously is that the ledger lines under the bass clef will spell the word FACE backwards from the letter E, down to the letter F.

BelowClefBELOW.png

As is the case with all of the ledger lines discussed in this video, to identify the letter names of the notes on the spaces in between each line, simply use the musical alphabet.