ledger line

Multiple ledger lines 15ma
With the exception of middle C, notes on ledger lines always reach the middle staff line with their stems. © Sidney Llyn

Definition of Ledger Line:

A ledger line is a horizontal line used to accommodate written music notes that are too high or too low to be written on a staff.

  • Middle C (C4) is the first note to be placed on a ledger line below the treble staff and above the bass staff.


Avoiding Ledger Lines

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

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.
    ● More on 8va & 8vb

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.

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.

Multilingual Synonyms:

  • leger line
  • linea aggiunta (It)
  • ligne ajoutée / supplémentaire (Fr)
  • Hilfslinie (Ger)

More Staff Lines: