Ledger Line Mistakes

Ultimate Music Theory Ledger Line Mistakes

Ledger Line Mistakes often occur when a Student (or Teacher) does not have a thorough understanding of all the Rules.  It is easy to avoid making Ledger Line Mistakes. 

First of all, what is a Ledger Line (or "Leger" Line)?  A Ledger Line is a line used to extend the range of the five-line staff.

Rule #1:  A Ledger Line is the same line weight as a staff line.  It may also be written slightly heavier (or darker).  The key word here is slightly!

Rule #2:  The vertical spacing of Ledger Lines must be identical to the vertical spacing between staff lines.

Rule #3:  Ledger Lines extend slightly past the notehead.  They need to extend sufficiently so as to be seen.  It is important to avoid crowding your Ledger Lines.  Adjustments must be made when spacing horizontally so that the Ledger Lines do not touch each other.  They are written for each individual note.

This Blog will feature the Top 3 Common Ledger Line Mistakes that I see as a Theory Examiner.

Ledger Line Mistakes:  Spacing

Spacing refers to the vertical distance between the Staff Lines and the Ledger Lines.  No, you do not need to get out the magnifying glass to measure these spaces.  However, you must be careful to keep the space in between the staff and the Ledger Line the same approximate vertical distance as is the space in between each of the staff lines.

Ledger Line Mistakes that involve spacing often occur because the Student is not using a ruler to write their Ledger Lines.  Using a ruler will encourage writing a straight line at an equal distance (proper spacing).

When marking Exams for the Ultimate Music Theory Certification Course and for the Complete Music Theory Course, I can usually tell immediately whether or not the Teacher or Student has used a ruler to write their Ledger Lines.

It is okay to "eyeball" the distance to try to get it as closely spaced as possible (without getting out the magnifying glass!).  Does it look too close?  Too far away?  Or is it Just Right!

Ultimate Music Theory 3 Common Ledger Line Mistakes

Ledger Line Mistakes:  Number

First of all, only write a Ledger Line when you "count" that Ledger Line on your way to the note!

For notes written above the Staff, write Ledger Lines until you write the note.  Then stop!  You do not need to write a Ledger Line above a note.  But you must write each line that you step up over to reach the note.

For notes written below the Staff, write Ledger Lines until you write the note.  Then stop!  You do not need to write a Ledger Line below a note.  But you must write each line that you step down over to reach the note.

You cannot just write the note flying in outer space either!  As you count the lines and spaces that represent the letter names of the notes going above or below the staff (to reach the note that you are writing), you must actually write the corresponding Ledger Lines.

In the UMT Complete Rudiments Workbook on Page 12, there is an excellent chart that shows notes written below the Treble Staff and above the Bass Staff using Ledger Lines.  Check it out.

Remember, do not write too few or too many Ledger Lines.

Ultimate Music Theory Common Ledger Line Mistakes - Number

Ledger Line Mistakes:  Length

Not only is the length of the Ledger Line important, so is the length of the stem!

First of all, write your Ledger Lines to be the same thickness of the Staff Lines.  Do not be heavy-handed when writing them.  You do not want them to be too thick.

Next, write your Ledger Lines to extend a little bit before and after the noteheads.  You are not drawing a 6th (or 7th or 8th) staff line!  You are drawing a line that fits the notehead just right!

Finally, and this is something that I wrote about in my Blog Music Note Stem Length - the length of the stem must be extended for Ledger Line notes!

When a note is written on a Ledger Line, the stem must be extended to touch Staff Line #3.  This is so important.  I tell my Students that this anchors the note to the staff so that it doesn't fly away (just in case a brisk wind blows across your Student's workbook...LOL.).

Ultimate Music Theory 3 Common Ledger Line Mistakes

To avoid making (or teaching) errors in theory, please remember this quote:

You never know what you don't know until you discover that you did not know it! ~ Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren

So, take my Challenge.  Do the Ultimate Music Theory Complete Rudiments Workbook yourself.  Mark your work with the Complete Answer Book.  If your answer is not the same as is in the Answer Book, take a closer look.  Is there something that you were not taught properly?

Even if you think that you are teaching all the rules correctly, you will never know what you don't know until you actually do the work and check.

My blog on Music Note Stem Lengths was written because I learned something new while I was researching and helping to write the Ultimate Music Theory Complete Level Supplemental Workbook!  It was such an "AHA" moment for me!

What will be your "AHA" moment?

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Keep on Learning... With a Smile and a Song!

Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren

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