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ledger line

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Ledger lines in piano music.

With the exception of middle C, notes on ledger lines always reach the middle staff line with their stems.

Image © Brandy Kraemer
Definition: A ledger line is a horizontal line used to accommodate notes that are too high or too low to be written on a staff.

Avoiding Ledger Lines

Multiple ledger lines can make sight-reading difficult, so they’re often bypassed in piano music with the following methods:

  1. 8va, 15ma & Octave Commands
    8va means a note or section will be played an octave higher than written; 15ma means two octaves higher:

    • The highest note on an 88-key piano is C8 (see image) which is written on the ninth ledger line above the treble staff. Using 15ma above C6 makes this note much easier to identify quickly.

    • The lowest note on a standard piano is A0, just under the sixth ledger line below the bass staff; more efficiently, it could be written with 15mb on A2, or 8vb on A1, pictured.

  2. For Low Treble Notes, Invade the Bass Staff
    A note below middle C will always have a place on the bass staff, even if you want to write it as a treble note. B3, for example – the note directly under middle C – rests on top of the bass staff when used as a bass note, but is also ledgered for use as a treble note.

    • To differentiate, a treble note written on the bass staff will have an upward-pointing note-stem connected to the middle line on the treble staff.

  3. A Temporary Clef
    You’ll encounter temporary G-clefs on the bass staff, and F-clefs on the treble. This is generally ideal when more than two measures are affected.

View Keyboard Labeled With Scientific Pitch Notation
Learn where notes such as C4 and A0 are found on the piano keyboard.

Also Known As:
  • leger line
  • linea aggiunta (It)
  • ligne ajoutée / supplémentaire (Fr)
  • Hilfslinie (Ger)


More Staff Lines:

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