Dangling "8" under the staff

• Aug 2, 2012 - 00:09

What's the purpose of the little "8" hanging off the staff beneath the bass clef and how do I get rid of it? I can right-click and cut, but then the bass clef disappears as well.


It sounds like you've mistakenly chosen a kind of sub-bass clef which notates pitches one octave below the standard bass clef. (I'm not familiar with its practical applications, though I'm guessing (1) it may precisely notate the pitches played by some low-register instruments like contrabassoon, or (2) that its use is historical.)

Replace it with the 'regular' bass clef by choosing the one that does not have the dangling '8' and in which the dots are centered on the second line from the top of the staff, and drag and drop it from the Clefs palette.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

The ‘dangling 8’ is used for instruments whose tones are an octave below the tones normally associated with the treble staff.
For instance guitar music actually sounds an octave lower than its notation on the treble staff would imply. That is why, guitar sheet music has sometimes an ‘dangling 8’ below
the treble clef but most of the time they left that out.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

While it is technically true that bass should use the bass8 clef, it is also common to use an ordinary bass clef and then set the transpositin to an octave manually. You can do that by simply deaggng the regular bass coef on top of the bass8 clef at the start of the score, then right clicking an emoty spot in the staff, choosing staff properties, and setting rhe transposition to octave there.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

The double bass is written with a normal bass clef, and it is assumed to sound an octave lower than written. While a few modern examples use the 8vb marking, it is not standard.

This is a problem in MuseScore particularly with writing double bass music that uses tenor clef (a common practice for higher-register passages), because there is no 8vb tenor clef available.

In reply to by sanbeiji

While the bass8 clef is used by default, with no transposition, you can override the transposition in staff properties (or edit it in instruments.xml if you want it to apply to all new scores). Set transposition to down an octave, switch to regular bass clef, and you can then use tenor clef as you'd expect. Assuming I am understanding you correctly.

Having just answered another post it seems I have stumbled upon a bass victimization conspiracy. I can see the point the bassists are making, though. I have encountered this sort of thing with brass instruments where MS defaults to the orchestral practices for Trombone, Euphonium etc. rather the British Brass Band style. Hitherto I have just changed the stave properties but I agree it would be good to have the choice of bass clef, treble clef, bass with the dangly 8 etc.

In reply to by underquark

Hardly a conspiracy I assure you -- simply me searching on Google for an answer, finding this thread, and then posting a more formal bug report elsewhere. Not that pointing out errors would constitute an atmosphere of victimization or anything... ;-)

Thanks for your work on this - it is truly appreciated.

In reply to by underquark

FWIW, this is one of the reasons I have argued elsewhere that the score creation wizard should provide easy access to the staff properties - so one doesn't have to go in afterwards and clean things up.

Regarding bass specifically, it should be noted that the convention of using the bass-8 clef with no transposition is pretty common these days. I think that's primarily because notation software makes this an easy way of doing things. If you set up bass to be a transposing instrument using ordinary bass clef, the downside is that it is very difficult to read or writre bass at concert pitch - too many ledger lines below the staff. The bass-8 clef is a clever way to make the bass part readable at concert pitch, and then, since that puts all the notes exactly where they need to be in the transposed score or parts, it's just as easy to simply leave the bass-8 clef in there and not mess with transposition. When I look at scores produced in the past 25 years or so (since computer-based notation software became available to the masses), it's pretty common to see it done this way.

It would be better, I suppose, if you could set up MuseScore to use bass-8 for concert pitch but then switch to regular bass clef, with octave transposition, when you turned concert pitch off. This is especially important for instruments that transpose at the ninth, like tenor sax, or other intervals larger than the octave. You want concert scores to use a clef that makes the part readable, but you want the transposed score/part to be in the right key and use the appropriate clef. There is an outstanding feature request to add this: the ability to have different clefs for concert pitch versus transposed.

Anyhow, that's some of the "why" things are as they are. For people who want to write bass as a transposing instrument with ordinary bass clef (the little 8 doesn't bother the actual players - most are pretty accustomed to seeing that by now, I would have to assume), then indeed, going to staff properties and setting up the transposition is the way to go. But you'll have to deal with the fact that the part will be largely unreadable when displaying the score at concert pitch, unless you plan to manually switch between clefs every time you toggle the Concert Pitch button. But if you write for bass high enough to need tenor clef (not really very common in my experience), then you probably have no choice but to use this method, since indeed, the bass-8 clef approiach won't play with tenor clef. I guess you write for tenor clef an octave too high delberately, and live with incorrect playback.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Our orchestra plays brand-new music quite regularly (this summer we did a bunch of film scores, Force Awakens, How To Train Your Dragon, Frozen) and I have never seen 8vb clef used for bass, or 8va for piccolo. I've never seen 8vb treble clef for Bass Clarinet or Tenor voice, either, actually.

It seems very weird to me that musescore pushes this notation as default. Default should be what's standard, and even if you have seen this get more popular, it isn't standard. I've never seen it in concert bands, either. Haven't looked at a lot of guitar, but what I have seen didn't use a special clef.

And if it causes problems with tenor clef, then that is another reason not to have it as the default. Providing the option of the clef is great, making it the standard/default is problematic.

In reply to by Laurelin

A computer program would need to be told how to play, so if you want Tenor voice to sound right, you either use a tenor clef (or bass clef, like in closed score SATB) or transpose down an octave or use an ottava line or have loads of ledger lines. Similar for piccolo flute, guitar (there it is somewhat common to notate it as a transposing instrument), bass guitar, etc.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

But musescore handles transposition just fine. French horns sound right without a special clef.

It's a treble clef for Tenor voice, btw. Set the transposition to perfect unison, down one octave, and it's tenor voice with a normal treble clef and it plays back correctly and matches the standard notation.

Implementing the standard notation isn't a problem, if that's what you're getting at.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

I googled tenor voice sheet music. It seems about half and half. So that one is debateable. Piccolo and contrabass/double bass are not.

brand new piccolo -

standard repertoire piccolo -

brand new contrabass/string bass/double bass -

standard repertoire double bass -

no, I'm not from Australia.

In reply to by Laurelin

As per WikiPedia you're quite right about Piccolo and Double Bass:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piccolo : "The piccolo sounds one octave higher than written."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bass : "Traditionally, the double bass is a transposing instrument. Since much of the double bass's range lies below the standard bass clef, it is notated an octave higher than it sounds to avoid having to use excessive ledger lines below the staff.

for Tenor see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenor : Note that the numeral eight below the treble clef indicates that the pitches sound an octave lower than written: see Clef#Octave clefs. This is the standard clef for tenor parts in scores.

See also https://musescore.org/en/node/38581, where similar issues had been discussed at legth, including the possibility to make Tenor a transposing 'instrument', but also Guitar and Bass
See also https://musescore.org/en/node/116591, for Guitar and Bass

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Yes, but the Tenor wiki doesn't actually say anything about whether it transposes or what clef it uses. If you google tenor voice sheet music, you get about half and half.

If you want, I'm singing with http://www.medicalmusical.org/ on wednesday, and I can survey the tenors. I can also email someone who is the musical director of a theatre, a choir director, and has a daughter in Broadway.

But I think the internet can come through for us. I googled, ended up at the choral public domain library, on this thread:http://forums.cpdl.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=4263
and I believe that this post covers everything:

My understanding is that the "Octave tenor clef" with the dangling 8 is a relatively late 20th century innovation(?) - possibly arising when computerized music engraving programs became the norm in music publishing? One only has to look at earlier 20th-century editions (eg. the T. Tertius Noble edition of Handel's (The) Messiah published by G. Schirmer in 1912) to see tenor parts written in the (treble) G-clef with no dangling 8, yet for which it is manifestly clear that the part is to be sung an octave lower. If anything, the ambitus (vocal range) should be the real clue - and in all instances I know of (for tenor parts), on should always sing parts down an ocatave when encountering the simple (no dangling 8) G-clef.

As to origins and "dumbing down", I have often wondered if the original culprits were those countless people trained originally or basically only in keyboard music, where it is virtually unheard of to see clefs other than the G-clef (treble) and F-clef (bass) - and C-clefs (no matter which line the C is on) were largely unknown except to violists, trombonists, and a few other instrumentalists. Many an accompanist/choir director would have found it quite a challenge to play a tenor part written in the tenor C-clef or an alto part written in the viola C-clef! Furthermore, vocal training from the late 19th through the mid 20th century simply placed almost no emphasis on early music where one would tend to encounter other clefs, and few composers from the Romantic era on seem to have bothered to compose vocal music with tenor parts in C-clefs. The addition of the "dangling 8" or other indication (as in the Ricordi editions cited above and in other editions) seems to be, if anything, at least a nod towards specificity (although perhaps not exactly a "wising up" to counteract any "dumbing down"). :wink:

Heaven forbid someone might find a Ph.D. dissertation topic here. :lol:

Charles H. Giffen
President of CPDL and
Manager of ChoralWiki
User page • Talk page • Composer page

Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

Which would explain why I haven't seen it - we're singing Aida, I've looked at Verdi, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and a les mis songbook before.

So I'm sticking with 'it's debateable', which pretty much means that you can do as you like with tenor default clef. Also, doltmesch, the holy music bible, has this line about octave clefs: It should be mentioned that while the use of these kind of clef signs is 'good practice', many editions ignore the additional figure 8 or 15 and use the plain sign without the figure which is then 'understood'.


So, I'm going with change the piccolo, contrabass, and maybe guitar. The Tenor voice clef should be fine.

In reply to by Laurelin

The modern standard recommendation for tenor voice is absolutely to use the octave clef (with 8). That's supported by Gould as well as most published music I've seen from the past half century or so. I don't think this is actually debatable.

For other instruments, it's become a bit of a religious issue. A few composers and editors like to use the octave clefs, others insist it's wrong. Finale started off, I believe, using them by default, but then maybe changed their tune? Not sure. Sibelius implements octave clefs in a totally different way and that's the sourece of another set of religious wars between users of notation programs.

Basically, no matter what we do, some number of users will be pleased, others not. Originally we didn't have the means to have different clefs for concert pitch versus transposed so we had no chocie but to use octave clefs for these instruments. Now that we do support the ability to have different clefs, I am fine with changing the default, because I agree it's more common to not use them for most of these instruments. Guitar seems the most "debatable" to me - both seems pretty common in my limited experience, and the voices on both sides of the debate are about equally strong.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I enthusiastically support the idea of changing the default for the case of double bass: The double bass is a transposing instrument - notes sound one octave lower than written.

I am a conservatory-trained double bassist and have collected over 30 years of professionally printed classical double bass sheet music. These scores and parts regularly use bass, tenor, and treble clef for the double bass parts (in a similar way to how cello, trombone, and bassoon switch between the three clefs). In exactly zero of these scores do the dangling 8s appear. The only time I ever regularly see the octave clefs used is when someone uses one of these programs to run off parts for rehearsal of a modern composition and is too lazy or careless to fix the issue. (Yeah I blame Finale for starting the problem.) If one were to examine the corpus for double bass sheet music, they would see the same: read any orchestral score by Stravinsky, Brahms, Mahler, Dvorak, concerto by Koussevitsky, Bottessini, sonata by Hindemith or Misek. In all cases, the double bass is correctly treated as a transposing instrument. :)

This is certainly true for piccolo, and I'll concede that guitar is debatable although I've only seen evidence of the octave clef usage for guitar in the more modern scores, which again raises the question of whether or not the practice is due to historical trends or due to software limitations... ;-)

Regardless, this has been an interesting debate and I appreciate the thoughtfulness on the issue.

In reply to by sanbeiji

Trying to summarize, so we want:

Piccolo flute to show a G clef and transpose up an octave normally, and show a G8va clef in concert pitch, right?

Double bass (and also contrabass and contrabasses?) to show an F clef and transpose down an octave normally in concert pitch, and an F8vb clef in sounding pitch.

Check the attached score, created with an adjusted instrumets.xml.

What about accoustic bass (same Instrument, just plucked by default rather than bowed, as use mainly in the Jazz genre)?

For guitar G and G8vb are equally common, so we should provide both, as it is requested and discussed also in https://musescore.org/en/node/38581 and done in https://github.com/musescore/MuseScore/pull/2255, so let's keep it out here.

Attachment Size
Piccolo Flute and Double Bass.mscz 10.18 KB

In musescore 2, at least, if you look down in the side bar, there is a drop down menu that says basic. If you drop that down and select advanced, more menu and editing options appear and you can go into clefs and there and re all of the standard clefs used. Simply click on your clef in the staff and then double click the staff you prefer to use back in the clef menu.

I know I'm late, but I hope this helps! ^^

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