Ledger lines are one of those seemingly obscure aspects of reading music that can cause a little confusion.
The first notes that we learn to read in music are on the Grand Staff and fall on visible lines and spaces from the bottom to the top of the staff.
There are also notes that we do not visibly see on the Grand Staff, even though they are always there. We don't see them until the piece that we're playing has then included.
Have you ever seen notes that are located above or below the normal staff that you see when you play? Those are Ledger Line notes.
Let's see exactly what Leger Lines are.
Step 1: What Are Ledger Lines?
Ledger Lines are lines located outside of the normal range for the Grand Staff that extend above or below the normal lines to include other notes that are not located on the normal Staff.
Take a look at image #1. See the two lines located above the staff and below the staff, sort of sticking out on their own? Those are Ledger Lines and this is what one would look like in your music.
The lines themselves are much shorter than the lines on the staff because they donate just the one note instead of a whole line of music.
Notice how they are located both above and below the Treble (top) staff.
If you look at image #2, you'll see some of the notes that we find on Ledger Lines going below the Treble staff, (on the bottom) and above the Treble staff, (on the top.)
Let's take a look at Treble Clef Ledger Lines next.
Step 2: Ledger Lines Above the Treble Clef
Image #2 shows notes going above the Treble staff from the top line.
On our regular staff, we already know that the top line in the Treble Clef is the note F and the space note right above that F, is G. Now if you skip up to the next line note, that note is A, but it's not visible on the staff unless you are going to play it in your music.
In this image, you can see that the notes that fall above the staff are G, A, B, C, D, E, & F. There are many more Ledger Line notes that come after this, but in this case, we just go up to F.
So if you were writing your own music, you would need to include Ledger Lines for any notes in the Treble Clef above the G that comes right after the top line note, F.
Now let's look at Ledger Line notes that fall below the Treble Clef.
Step 3: Ledger Lines Below the Treble Clef
Just as the notes that come above the Treble Clef, there are notes that come below the Treble Clef, that are on Ledger Lines.
The bottom line note on the regular staff is E. Right below that is D, and then we come to Middle C.
Middle C is actually one of the first notes we learn on the keyboard and in our music. We don't usually realize that it is a Ledger Line note until we start reading those notes more in our music. (It is a neat fact though!)
In image #2 you can see notes below the Treble Clef starting with the note A, then going to B and then landing on Middle C.
The important thing to remember here is that there are Ledger Line notes located above and below the Treble Clef. They are pretty easy to figure out if you just start counting from either the bottom/first line of the staff downward, or starting with the top line F, and going upwards.
Is it the same with the Bass Clef? Let's find out!
Step 4: Bass Clef Ledger Lines
Yes, it is!
We have Ledger Line notes in the Bass Clef, and they fall above and below the Bass Clef Staff lines.
Take a look at image #2 to see examples of these notes along with the note names.
Now that we know about Ledger Lines and where to find those notes in the Treble and Bass Clefs, let's find out one of the fastest ways to learn how to read them so we can play them well.
Step 5: The Trick to Reading Ledger Notes Quickly
Let's go back to the beginning.
Many students learn the names of notes on the lines first, then learn the names of the notes on the spaces next.
In the Treble Clef, we learn something like this:
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
This stands for each of the lines on the Treble staff and the notes that fall on those lines. The notes are
E, G, B, D, F. For the space notes, we usually learn "FACE" which stand for F, A, C, and E; the notes on the Treble spaces.
To learn to read Ledger Line notes quickly, simply do the same thing! We call this stacking the notes.
You need to learn the names of your Ledger Line notes, and then your Ledger Line space notes. Make up a saying if you need to so you can say them just as quickly as you can "FACE".
Then when you see notes on Ledger Lines, you just count up by lines or spaces to find the note. The more you do this, the easier you'll be able to recognize and play Ledger Line notes easily.
I've got a great video that goes over all of this info and explains it in detail. Why don't you come and practice with me?
Step 6: Come Practice With Me!
The best way to really understand how to read Ledger Line notes this way is to take a look at this video and see how I do it at the keyboard.
I'll show you the notes on actual music paper and where those notes are on the keyboard.
We'll also practice doing this several times with different notes so you can get the patterns down.
You'll be reading Ledger Line notes in no time!