The ability to use an extremely wide range of notes on the keyboard is the piano’s greatest asset. 88 keys on a standard keyboard give us great flexibility and great possibilities. But how do you designate all these notes? After all, the staves of the treble and bass clef have only 5 lines each!
How To Read Treble Clef And Bass Ledger Lines?
How can you write very high or very low notes in sheet music? Simple: we use ledger lines! This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about writing and reading piano music if you want to learn more.
Note: If you are not yet familiar with the basics of reading written music, please check out our articles How to Read Piano Tabs and How to Read Bass Clef.
- 1 What Are Ledger Lines For?
- 2 How To Read Ledger Lines In Treble And Bass Clefs? 4 Easy Steps!
- 2.1 Step 1: How Do You Read Ledger Lines On Treble Clef?
- 2.2 Step 2: How Do You Read Bass Ledger Lines?
- 2.3 Step 3: The Trick To Reading Ledger Notes Quickly
- 2.4 Question – What is the acronym for treble clef ledger lines?
- 2.5 Question – What is the acronym for bass clef ledger lines?
- 2.6 Step 4: How To Avoid Multiple Ledger Lines?
- 3 Final Words About Ledger Line Notes
What Are Ledger Lines For?
What are Ledger Lines? It is very easy! These are little lines that are added to the musical staff on both sides (bottom or top).
Each staff has five lines and four spaces (both in the treble and in the bass clef). The treble and bass staff together form a grand staff. The ledger lines are used to show notes that are outside the staff since we know there are many more notes on the keyboard.
For example, check out how different C notes look in the treble and bass clef on several ledger lines!
In the picture, you see three notes C – the bottom note on two lines is C2, on the ledger line between two clefs is C4 or middle C, and on the top two lines is the note C6.
Question – How many ledger lines are there between bass and treble?
Between the bass and the treble clef, there is one ledger line – it contains the note middle C or C4. It is very important to understand that the first ledger line above the bass staff and the first line below the treble staff is the same middle C or C4 note! It can be written in bass or treble clef, depending on which hand you want to play it with.
Why Do We Need Ledger Lines?
Ledger lines give us the opportunity to use the full range of the piano keyboard and not limit ourselves to just the middle register.
This gives us the opportunity to play not only piano music but also the parts of other instruments. Would you like to play the flute or violin part on the piano? Or maybe a double bass part?
Ledger lines give us the ability to write very high or very low notes on a large staff, read them and play them.
How To Read Ledger Lines In Treble And Bass Clefs? 4 Easy Steps!
Let’s talk more about how to read notes in ledger lines. You will be able to see that it is much easier than it might seem at first glance!
Step 1: How Do You Read Ledger Lines On Treble Clef?
First, let’s remember the musical alphabet – A, B, C, D, E, F, G. On a treble clef, notes begin with E (first line) and end with F (fifth line). The next note on top of the fifth line is G. If we add one ledger line above the staff, we get an A. On top of this ledger line is B, the second ledger line is C, and so on.
We use not only ledger lines, but also spaces between them, just like lines and spaces on treble and bass staff.
Thus, by adding new lines and moving up the musical alphabet, we can reach the last key of the keyboard.
If we add a ledger line from below the treble staff, we will need to move through the notes in the opposite direction – G, F, E, D, C, B, A. The note on the first line is E, under the line is D, on the ledger line on the bottom – C, under the ledger line B, etc.
Step 2: How Do You Read Bass Ledger Lines?
The bass staff uses the same principle! When we add a ledger line at the top, we go up the musical alphabet – starting with the note A on the fifth line of the bass staff.
When we add the ledger line at the bottom, we go down. On the first line of the bass staff is G, under the line is F, after that is E, etc.
Step 3: The Trick To Reading Ledger Notes Quickly
Of course, at the initial stage, you will have to repeat the entire musical alphabet each time in order to correctly identify all the notes in a piece of music. But there are some tricks that will help you remember the names of the notes and their location on two staves more easily and quickly.
Question – What is the acronym for treble clef ledger lines?
Want to quickly memorize the musical alphabet in the treble staff? For notes that are on lines (E, G, B, D, and F) we use the acronym – “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. For notes that are in spaces (F, A, C, E) we use the word “FACE”.
The “FACE” is also suitable for remembering the top ledger lines.
Question – What is the acronym for bass clef ledger lines?
There is an easy way to remember all the note names in the bass clef. To memorize the notes on the bass clef lines, the phrases commonly used are “Good Bikes Don’t Fall Apart”, “Good Boys Do Fine Always”, and “Green Buses Drive Fast Always” where the initial letter of each phrase indicates the notes on that line (from bottom to top: G, B, D, F, A). The mnemonic “All Cows Eat Grass” is used to help remember notes in spaces.
Step 4: How To Avoid Multiple Ledger Lines?
Sometimes in piano music, we can find very low or very high notes, which require a large number of ledger lines to write. Such notes will be quite uncomfortable to read, especially if you are practicing sight reading.
How to avoid multiple ledger lines? There is a special symbol for this – 8va, or “octave above” sign. It means that you need to play notes an octave higher or lower than what is written in the score.
If this symbol is indicated above the notes, it means that you need to play the same notes, but 1 octave higher. This is what it looks like in the treble staff.
To avoid ledger lines below the bass staff, we use a similar symbol, 8ba or “Bassa”, but it is below the notes. This means that you must play the same notes as written, but 1 octave lower. Pay attention, that G is marked in red in the picture because this note is too low and does not exist on the standard 88-key piano. The lowest note is A1.
Final Words About Ledger Line Notes
Ledger line notes are very widely used in piano scores, especially in pieces of a more advanced level. Therefore, the ability to read these lines is very important if you plan to achieve a high level in your lessons.
Reading ledger lines is a very important thing for developing your piano practice and especially for sight reading. All students learn the first white key – the note middle C – and the first additional line in the first lesson.
If you continue to regularly learn all subsequent notes – both in lines and in spaces, very soon you will master the whole grand staff and get to the ledger line notes above the treble staff and below the bass staff.
Reading music may seem rather complicated at first glance, but it’s not! The main thing is constant regular practice and you will be able to master the skill of writing and reading notes.
Try to pay attention not only to the treble staff but also to the bass staff in order to quickly learn all the notes in the grand staff. Thus, you will learn to read music faster and be able to play new pieces well with both hands.
I hope this music theory lesson was useful for you!
Hello! My name is Lucy.
I am a musician, pianist, and piano teacher with over 10 years of experience. I, along with my professional team, created this website. Here I want to share my experience and knowledge with you. I write articles about learning the piano, its features and history, and reviews of the best digital pianos and accessories.
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