What's The Purpose of Ledger Lines Anyways?

Published: 26th September 2011
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Those doggone ledger lines.  Who decided they were a good idea anyways?  Those pesky little lines can make reading music difficult, but it doesn't have to remain this way.  Anyone who has ever learned how to read music finds these little lines to be a nusance at some point.

Don't worry. Ledger lines are really not that difficult to read. After learning a few tricks and a little practice, you will find it pretty easy to read also.

First, let's find out why we have them in the first place.

A ledger line is a tiny line that is added both above and below the music staff. Its purpose is to extend the staff up or down giving us more notes to read and use. The notes can be placed on these lines or in between the lines.

How do you read them?

Well, we just cycle through the musical alphabet going forward for notes above the staff and backwards for notes appearing below the staff.

The simplest way to do this is to find a note on the staff that you already know. The next step is to keep moving up each line and space while saying the musical alphabet (A-B-C-D-E-F-G, etc.).).

If the ledger line appears below the staff, do this same thing working backwards through the alphabet while moving down each line and space.

There is absolutely no limit to how high or low ledger lines can go. As you may have discovered, the more ledger lines on the page equals a little bit more of a challenge to read.

Where do you find them?

You can find ledger lines used in any clef. However, bass clef and treble clef are the mostly commonly used clef signs today. If you have to read either clef, you will eventually need to learn how to read ledger lines.

If you have a willingness to learn and practice these skills, you will also read ledger lines in music very easily. It's important to be patient with yourself allowing for enough time to get through this learning curve. In no time at all, you will begin to read ledger line notes just like any other note on the staff.


As an active music instructor, Teresa Rose has a passion for helping people learn music. Stop by her website for more tips on reading ledger lines and sign up for her free Learning About Music eCourse.

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