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Ledger Lines and the Grand Staff

The grand staff and ledger lines is part 4 and 5 of a 31 part series on music theory. Before we discuss this staff, we must understand ledger lines. The notes that sit on the lines above and below the staff are called ledger lines.

As notes rise and fall above and below the staff, we need a way to notate this and that is why ledger lines were created. The image below shows us all of the available notes on the guitar.



Below is a grand staff. It is a combination of both the treble staff and the bass staff. This staff is what a piano player reads because there are two hands to play two different parts.

The left hand generally plays notes in the bass staff which are to the left of or below middle C. The right hand generally plays notes in the treble staff which are to the right of or above middle C on the piano.

NOTE: The C that is below the treble staff on the ledger line in the above diagram, and the C that is above the bass staff on the ledger line in the diagram, are actually the same note. They are both middle C as indicated by the piano key.

The reason they are written as separate notes, is that when it's written just above the bass staff, the left hand should play it. When it's written just below the treble staff, the right hand should play it.


Essentially, this staff encompasses all notes played by a band. This is why a piano can function as a band unto itself. In other words basically all the notes played by a group or an orchestra can be recreated (for the most part) by a piano.

A guitar player might play a single line melody on the treble staff while the bass player is reading the bass staff. Together they function like the right and left hands of a piano player respectively.

A choral group would all look at this staff together. The female soprano voice would read the top melodic line on the treble staff. Below that would be the female alto voice who would also read their part on the treble staff.

The male tenor voice generally has melodic parts that float between the treble and bass staves. Lastly, the male bass voice would sit comfortably in the bass staff.

In barbershop music the voices in order of top to bottom are tenor, lead, baritone and bass. There are both male and female barbershop groups.

Now, let's take a look at note duration!

Continue to Parts 6 & 7, Whole Note and Half Note

Return to Top of Grand Staff

Return to Musical Notation

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