Ottava Bassa

• May 29, 2022 - 01:34

I added an ottava bassa to my piece, but the text says 8va rather than 8vb. How do I fix this?


It's not wrong to say 8va - it stands for "ottava" (octave) and can be used to mean above or below. 8vb is actually meaningless, even though some books do allow it and you do see it in pop music especially in English-speaking countries. The more correct abbreviation other than just 8va, though, is 8ba (for "bassa"). Really, many if not most editors dispense with all that and just use "8" though, which is what MuseScore does by default.

Anyhow, you can change this if you need to using the Inspector. But unless you have some special reason to - like if you're working for a publisher who requires a specific style - I recommend leaving it at the default, just the plain 8. Takes the least space and is perfectly clear.

For some old schoolers (like me): // This is what we learned back then. It doesn't need to have substantive proof.
8va ---------|: All' ottava alta (one octave up for all) // the two letters "a" next to each other in the abbreviation have been reduced to one.
8vb _______|: All' ottava bassa (one octave down for all) // the second letter "a" in the previous abbreviation has been replaced with the letter "b".
loco : in place (as it is written). //optional. If "8va/b" persists for several lines, warning to return to normal octave.

But in the new schools, they only write 8 and put it above or below depending on the situation. // and also in terms of helping visually.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

vb isn't really "old school". More, "only slightly less new" school. I would swear I remember being taught that too, but when you actually research this, you find it's really a fairly recent development - you won't find 8vb very often in music published more than 100 years ago. Whereas "8" by itself was the norm, with 8va / 8ba being a distant second, up until the last few decades. Check any original editions of piano works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, etc. Doesn't match what we *think we know indeed, but IMSLP doesn't lie :-). I know when someone first pointed this out to me, I was skeptical as well, and spent a long time browsing older scores until I was finally convinced. I think I saw a dozen or so "8"'s for every "8va". Curiously, notating octave below is pretty uncommon in any case (editors seem fine with tones of ledger lines below the staff), but again, it was probably at least 10:1 in favor of plain 8.

I'm not saying 8vb hasn't become common in recent years - no doubt, it has. But it definitely isn't the more common notation historically.

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