How to Read Notes on Ledger Lines (Drills Included)

Do you struggle with reading notes on ledger lines? Wish there was a trick to reading them quickly? In this article, I’m going to show you how.


Reading notes on ledger lines can be difficult, especially when there are multiple lines. In this article, I’m going to show you a little trick so you can figure out ledger line notes quickly.


What are ledger lines?

Ledger lines are the lines below and above the staff for notes that go beyond the staff. They look like this:

notes on ld

Middle C is an example of a note on a ledger line. It’s easy to recognise as it is one if not the first note that you learn to recognise at the piano. But there are other ledger line notes beside Middle C and some can be hard to read.


How to read notes on ledger lines quickly

One way to figure out the note is to say the note names up to the note from whichever note you can read. For example, say we had the following note:

note with three ledger lines


If the highest note you can read is treble E (space note in the 4th space counting from the bottom), you would have to say E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E. That’s a lot of notes to say and this takes way too much time, especially if you’re sight-reading!


A much quicker way of figuring out the notes on ledger lines is to use the landmark notes as a reference and say the note names by skips.


Figuring out line notes on ledger lines

For notes on ledger lines that are line notes, use the following landmark notes as a reference:


C's on ledger lines


For example, if we go back to the note we were looking at previously, we can simply say the skips from High C in ascending order (C, E) and this would give us E:

working out high E in the treble

Figuring out space notes on ledger lines

For notes on ledger lines that are space notes, use the following landmark notes as a reference:


landmark notes that are space notes

For example, for the following note, say the skips from G in ascending order (G, B, D) which would give you D:

working out high D in the treble

For the following note, we have to say the skips from G in descending order (F, D, B) as we’re going lower. This would give you B:

working out low bass B


And for the space notes that are between the treble and bass, use the following notes as a reference:

reference notes for space notes between the treble and bass

Trick to remember the order of the skips

I know what you’re thinking: “Remembering the order of the skips is hard. How do you do it?” Especially if you have to say the skips forward and backward! But actually, there is an easy way to remember the order of the skips, that is, by using “Jibidy Face” or GBD FACE.


This is a little trick I recently came across in this video. I thought it was so clever that I wanted to share it with you guys.

And the beauty of this trick is that it works both ways – GBD FACE or FACE GBD – for the line notes and space notes respectively:counting the notes by skip

Neat, huh?


To use this trick effectively, you have to be able to say the skips from any letter of the alphabet and both ways, that is, forward and backward! First off, practice saying the skips for the line notes – GBD FACE – and the space notes FACE GBD – then try starting from any note. And lastly, try from any note but backward.


Using the trick that I’ve given you, try figuring out the following notes. (You’ll find the answers at the very bottom of this article!)

Exercise 1:

line note with three ledger lines


Exercise 2:

line note with two ledger lines

Exercise 3:

high treble F



And if you want to practise reading notes on ledger lines, check out these drills:



The good news is that you only really need to know notes with up to 3 ledger lines. It’s very rare to see notes with more than 3 ledger lines. Beyond that, the octave sign (8va or 8vb) is usually used.


Answers: Exercise 1 – F; Exercise 2 – E and Exercise 3 – F.


Let me know if you have any questions.


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    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny, or Manu, is a piano and violin teacher, composer and accompanist based in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing her love of music and her sight-reading and practice tips to help other pianists become more confident sight-readers.



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