Double bass clef usage

• Jan 22, 2013 - 22:29

Musescore's Double Bass instrument incorrectly assigns an 8vb bass cleft. It should be a normal bass clef. The double bass is considered to be a transposing instrument. This instrument's music is written with a normal bass clef, and it is assumed to sound an octave lower than written. While there are several modern examples use the 8vb marking, it is by no means 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. The 8vb marking is unnecessary, a point of confusion, causes serious problems with tenor clef markings, and is by itself a visual distraction. It is critical that this be reconfigured before more compositions and arrangements propagate this error.

Wikipedia states:

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. This transposition applies even when reading the tenor and treble clef, which are used to avoid excessive ledger lines when notating the instrument's upper range.

I also have a masters in double bass performance from New England Conservatory, have only encountered the 8vb usage on very rare occasions (usually from inexperienced composers printing bass parts using programs such as this), and a quick scan of all of my professionally-printed sheet music indicates no instance of the 8vb version of the bass clef. ;)



Until this is addressed, you can right-click and select Stave Properties -> Play Transposition +1 Octave down. Then you can change the clef manually to ordinary bass clef and can also use ordinary treble clef.

See my response here .

The point being, it's not exact a *bug* that it is done the way it is - it is done for some very good reasons, with plenty of precedent in terms of how things have been done for the past couple of decades, if not in the preceding centuries. I think you'll find this to be a case where tradition is actively changing. Yes, editions produced before 1990 almost exclusively used ordinary bass clef. But bass-8 isn't just a error propagated by inexperienced composers - it really is becoming a quite common and accepted way of dealing with the problems inherent in working with octave-transposing instruments in notation software.

Most significantly, the current method is much easier for the *composer* (and after all, that's the primary audience for MuseScore) because it allows one to much more easily work in concert pitch scores without needing excessive ledger lines or to manually change clefs every time. So I think that simply changing the default behavior of the bass would be a mistake. It would inconvience the composers using MuseScore pretty significantly, whereas seeing the "8" in a part doesn't inconvenience players reading the parts at all. Except, of course, that this eliminates the easy option of switching to tenor clef for those bass parts that need it.

Anyhow, I definitely agree there should be a way to produce scores using the older standard more easily., You can currently get this behavior with a simple change to staff porerties after score creation, and perhaps save templates set up that way if you tend to write for the same type of ensembles, or customize instruments.xml if you want it to hold for scores created from scratch. But this is more work than it should be, and as I mentioned, it really presents a difficult conundrum to the composer, as it means scores are very difficult to work with in concert pitch (where most composers do most of their work).

So the change we really need is an option to force use of a different clef when in concert pitch mode. With an option to force bass-8 clef while in concert pitch mode, then we could have our cake and eat it too. Parts would show in ordinary bass clef by default and would allow for switching to and from tenor clef, but concert pitch scores would be readable. Finale added such an option a few yearsd back, so scores created with Finale during the 1990's and early 2000's (I think) would likely have used bass-8 for parts, but current versions support the forcing of bass-8 for concert pitch so parts can use ordinary bass clef. Not sure about Sibelius, but it hasnb't been round as long - Finale is really what has driven the standard here.

My sense is that development of 2.0 has made steps in this direction but isn't there yet. So yes, again, I agree it should. I'm just cautioning *against* merely making the change to instruments.xml to treat bassd as a transposing instrument *without* also adding an option to force a different clef for concert pitch mode. This is an issue for all instruments that transpose by an octave or more (piccolo, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone, low brass in the Britiish band tradition, guitar, etc). Actually, I think for guitar, use of treble-8 really has become so standardized as to not be in question.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Seems like a reasonable proposed solution. I will stand by the this Wikipedia entry as reference on the correct manner of the issue for printed parts, but will concede that it doesn't bother me one way or the other if I see a part with 8vb clefs. That said, in order for me to properly compose works for the double bass, either an 8vb tenor clef would be required, I'd need to jerry-rig instruments.xml, override the transposition in staff properties, or else I'd need a solution such as what you propose. Thanks for the consideration on this, and I'll probably resort to the editing of instruments.xml in the meantime.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.