Ledger Lines in Music

Ledger Lines in Music

Grade 2

Ledger lines in music allow composers to write notes that do not fall within the five lines of the stave.

You only need to know up to two ledger lines for grade 2, however hopefully after this lesson you will know enough to work out notes on as many ledger lines as you want.


The first ledger line note

We have already looked at a note with a ledger line when we explored the Musical Alphabet in Grade 1.
This note is the middle C:

One Ledger Line - Middle C in the Treble ClefOne Ledger Line - Middle C in the Bass Clef


Ledger Lines

Let’s have a look at the middle C again.
When you need to write a note outside of the five stave lines, you can write additional lines to increase the length of the stave, for that one note.
Therefore, the middle C will need one extra line added on to the stave. In the treble clef the line needs to be added below the stave, in the bass clef it needs to be added above the stave:

One Ledger Line without Note in Treble ClefOne Ledger Line without Note in Bass Clef

This line is called a ledger line.
The note is then simply put on, above, or below the ledger line, just like all other notes are in music.


Two Ledger Lines

You can have any number of ledger lines, but as you can see below, it can get confusing:

Ledger Lines in Music can become excessive!

Thankfully, you only need to know about the notes up to two ledger lines.
Lets look at the notes above the stave first.
Like we discussed in the Musical Alphabet Lesson, there is one note on each line and between each line on the stave (the ledger lines simply continue the stave!).
You also learnt that the notes go from A to G, and then start over from A again.
Therefore, the labelled notes above the stave in the both are below:

Two Ledger Lines above Treble ClefTwo Ledger Lines above Bass

Now lets look at the notes below the stave:

Two Ledger Lines below Treble ClefTwo Ledger Lines below Bass


Rewriting in a different clef

You may be asked in the exam to rewrite a passage of music in a different clef.
To do this, it is helpful if you understand what the ledger line notes are equal to in the opposite clef. Below is an image where another in the top stave, are the same as the note directly underneath it, despite them being in two different staves.

Ledger Line notes have equal notes in another clef

Therefore, if you are given a G in the bass clef, and you have to rewrite it into a G in the treble clef, you will know which note to do.
It may be helpful if you write out the ledger line notes on a seperate piece of paper given to you in the exam and label them, so you can make this association quicker.


Transposition

In the trinity exam, (not ABRSM, although it is useful to know regardless!), you will be expected to know how to transpose notes down or up an octave.
To transpose something is to change it’s position.
Therefore, when a question asks you to transpose a note or melody down an octave, it simply means to rewrite it an octave lower.
To transpose down an octave, the notes will be moved down until they reach the same note name, as such:

Transposed Notes

This shouldn’t be too difficult, however it can be very easy to make mistakes, so make sure you check it very carefully!