The Grand Staff and Ledger Lines of Piano Music
4 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Reading Piano Music
The grand staff of piano music is simply the treble clef and bass clef joined together with a brace at the far left side. This grand staff (and, yes, it’s really called that) makes it possible for you to read notes for both your right and left hands at the same time.
Adding notes in the middle
Why all the space between the two staves, you may ask. Well, if you name the notes downward on the treble clef, you only get to E before running out of lines. Likewise, the top line on the bass clef is A. What happens if you need to play the B, C, C-sharp, D, and D-sharp in between that A and E?
The solution is the ledger line. The ledger line represents an imaginary line running above or below the staff, extending the five-line staff to six, seven, or more lines, offering a place for the notes above and below each staff. You can, of course, read notes in the spaces between ledger lines just like you read notes in the spaces between the staff lines.
Middle C, for example, can be written below the treble staff or above the bass staff by using a small line through the notehead. If middle C is written with a ledger line below the treble staff, you play it with your right hand; if it’s written with a ledger line above the bass staff, you play it with your left hand.
If you’re more of a visual learner, try thinking of it this way: The notes written in the middle of the grand staff, or between the two staves, represent notes in the middle of the piano keyboard.
Climbing up and down the staff
Middle C may be powerful, but it isn’t the only note to receive the coveted ledger line award. Other ledger lines come into play when you get to the notes above and below the grand staff. Notes written above the treble staff represent higher notes, to the right on your keyboard. Conversely, notes written below the bass staff represent lower notes, to the left on your keyboard.
For example, the top line of the treble staff is F. Just above this line, sits the note G. After G, a whole new set of ledger lines waits to bust out.
A similar situation occurs at the bottom of the bass staff. Ledger lines begin popping up below the low G line and low F that’s hanging on to the staff for dear life. The following figure shows a generous range of notes on the grand staff and how they relate to the keyboard.