Beginner's Corner: Ledger Lines

Ledger line example
Ledger line example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Ledger Lines

Sometimes the five lines of the treble clef and the five lines of the bass clef are
not enough to write down all the notes a composer wants to use.

The really low and really high notes go above or below the staff, but they can't
just hang in empty space. To make room for notes that don't fit on the staff musicians
use ledger lines.

They are short lines stacked above or below the regular lines of each staff. Think of
ledger lines as additional steps above or below the staff. A definition and picture is
demonstrated at

By adding the staff, ledger lines provide means for indicating pitches either higher or
lower than the limits of the five-line staff.

A note on the space above or the space below the staff does not require a ledger line.
So, at times a musical sounds may be either higher or lower than those pitches represented
by lines and spaces of the staff. The means of writing such pitches are provided by ledger lines.

I think it's probably a good idea to learn how to read ledger lines, especially for those high
octave endings and low bass tone endings. A foundation for learning the staff, clefs and ledger
lines can be found at


In the above photo, the higher note is called "High C" but no, it's not the highest C
on the piano. Remember that the line notes, starting with the first line, is E, G, B, D, F.
Therefore, the first ledger line is A and the note sitting on the 2nd line is C.

Now, the lower note is resting on the A line. The first line is Middle C and counting the music alphabet backwards we arrive at A. I think one of the coolest photos to explain all this theory
can be found at

For more additional online information regarding ledger lines, visit

ledger lines chart
Photo Credit:
 A very valuable print out to use for testing yourself and students is the use of flash cards.
Some great ones can be found, here

Ledger lines in different languages are called:
  • linea aggiunta (It)
  • ligne ajoutée / supplémentaire (Fr)
  • Hilfslinie (Ger)
They are important to learn how to read them and where to play those note on the piano,
especially when you see the octave sign, 8va (meaning a note or section will be played an
octave higher.)

You may be interested in the Gospel Music Training Center, visit gmtc

Have a great week ahead!

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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