How to Read Ledger Lines

Have you ever wondered what the notes are above and below the stave?

Why the space in between the bass and treble clef is so large?

Do you take a lot longer to work out the notes?

Do you have no idea how to even start?

There’s nothing to be afraid of! I’m going to take you through different options to help you understand and easily work with ledger lines:

What Is A Ledger Line?

A ledger line is essentially an extension of the stave. It represents an imaginary line offering a place for the notes above and below each staff.

Why Is There A Gap Between The Two Staves?

When you name the notes downwards on the treble clef, you get to E before running out of lines. Surely, the top line on the bass clef is A. So we need space for the other notes to appear in between the A and E. Therefore the gap is for the letters such as B, C, C-sharp, D, and D-sharp.

How Do We Read Them?

In basics, you should count from the last note on the stave up/down until you meet the ledger line.

Putting Into Practice

Right Hand

The spaces in the right hand spell out face (F-A-C-E) and coincidentally with the top line being an F, so do the ledger lines. So by having this knowledge in your pocket, you should easily be able to work out the notes. Each note that lands on a ledger line will spell the same word, and the spaces will just be the note in-between.

Below is a diagram to show you visually:

If this is too difficult for you, another way to figure the notes out is to count up from the top line (F) with the musical alphabet applying the next letter of the alphabet to the next note. This means that the note in the first space should be G as G comes after F on the piano. The note after that should then be A and so on. This may be time-consuming but whilst you’re learning to identify the notes, it is an easy way to understand the concepts.

Putting Into Practice

Left Hand

The concept is pretty similar to the right hand. The only difference is that instead of spelling F-A C-E, because you are counting down you should spell face backwards, so the notes would be E-C-A F. The notes in-between in the spaces will be the filler. It may sound confusing, but once you begin practicing it is easy to get the hang of.

Below is a diagram to help visualize:

If you are a piano beginner and find this too difficult to do then you can do the same thing you do for the right hand and use the musical alphabet to count back until you are ready and comfortable. For example, because you are counting down, the first ledger after F (which is on the last space) would be E because it is the note before F on the piano.

Some Harder Practice

The note on the 2nd ledger line would be C because it is three notes before F and to get to the second ledger line you have to count the first ledger line, the space, and then the ledger line you want to be able to read, which means you want to go down three notes on the piano. Three notes down from F (without counting the F) is C - therefore the note you would want to play would be C.

This may all sound a bit confusing right now, but with consistent practice and the attitude to not give up, you’ll be able to crack ledger lines in no time and play your favourite pieces with fewer obstacles to stand in your way.

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