Bb Clarinet C4 or C3

• Sep 10, 2017 - 04:49

Hi All,

Forgive me if I sound like a fool, I have no music knowledge, just trying to self learn a few simple notes here.

I am a bit confused over how C3/C4 is being drawn for a Bb clarinet in Musescore.

On University of NSW's website, a C4 can be seen like that

But the same note, when drawn on Musescore, the status bar displayed it as C3, please see attached image.

Both note producing the same tone. Just that UNSW label it as C4 and Musescore labelled it as C3.

I hope someone can enlighten a noob please.


Attachment Size
bb clarinet c4.PNG 55.75 KB


In reply to by Shoichi

Hi Soichi,

Thank you so much for your reply.

I doubt that was the issue.

Because without enabling "concert-pitch", a Bb clarinet when playing a C note using Musescore, it will sounds Bb. When "Concert Pitch" is being selected, the note should show Bb.

In you screenshot, status showing C4 with "concert pitch" selected, if you unselect the "concert pitch" for a Bb instrument, the status display will show D4.

Please correct me if I am wrong.


I think this is a bug. The status bar should show the pitch which is C4 whether or not concert pitch is enabled. Maybe it should also have a an indication of the note that the instrument is playing which would be a D in the case of the Bb clarinet. Assigning numbers (C4, C5 etc.) to transposing instruments gets a bit confusing but if we take it that C4 is middle C then showing it as C3 here is, indeed , wrong.

In reply to by underquark

I think you are right.

Did another test, selected 3 different Bb instruments, with the same note, all of the shown as C3, but the same note was shown as C4 for a piano. They should be the same note, displayed as the same note on the status bar, just not the same sound when playing.

My version is 2.0.3 Revision 3c7a69d

Attachment Size
musescore_c4_c3.PNG 91.82 KB

In reply to by mike320

By chance, and by confusion, have you not deleted the key signature (the default 2 sharps) just after creating your score, ie at this step: Pitch 0.mscz
By removing now the key signature, and by entering the C, I get like you, the C3 for the Clarinet, and for the two following transposing instruments (and so, C4 for piano as expected) Pitch.mscz

So, if I understood correctly what you did, you do not have to cut the key signature, but use / press the Concert Pitch button. See: Pitch 1.mscz

Attachment Size
Pitch.mscz 6.34 KB
Pitch 1.mscz 6.35 KB
Pitch 0.mscz 6.08 KB

In reply to by cadiz1

I doubt so. Just tested both your files with a Korg tuner.

File Pitch.mscz
Bb Clarinet, Bb Cornet and Bb Trumpet all playing C note and sound Bb on a tuner. No matter if "concert pitch" is selected or not, the sound still sounds Bb (Which is a correct behavior)

File Pitch 1.mscz
Bb Clarinet, Bb Cornet and Bb Trumpet all sound C, no matter if "concert pitch" is being selected or not. SO if a Bb instruments sounds C, then it is not playing C note.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

I did a quick test on the small concert band since there are other instruments in it. The Bb instruments including the Tenor Sax had this problem. The Eb instruments, like Alto and Bari Sax did not have the problem. The F horns did not have the problem. Strange it seems at this point to be limited to Bb instruments. I'll continue to do a little more testing.

In reply to by mike320

After further testing I see what MuseScore is doing. A written middle C on a Bb instrument is a concert Bb3, so MuseScore is showing the octave the concert pitch is in. Writing the D (concert C) above this gives the expected octave. Looking at an Eb instrument the octave change occurs between Ab/G# and A which is a concert C. Selecting a note and using the arrows to move them up and down will confirm this.

I don't know that this is a bug. It's probably by design and shows the actual octave in which a given note is played rather than the transposed octave.

In reply to by mike320

Hi Mike,

Thank you so much for testing this, appreciated.

What you noted here is the correct behaviour, a Bb instrument when playing a C written note will sound Bb and shown as Bb note when concert pitch is selected.

I don't have issue with the sound produced no matter if concert pitch is being selected or not, when measured with a tuner the sound played was correct. I also don't have any problem with how the note is being display when concert pitch is being selected or not.

My question was more towards the status bar's display, the same note is being displayed as C3 for Bb instruments but C4 for piano. I think they shouldn't have an octave different when displayed at the status bar.


In reply to by mobilegps

As I tried to explain above, but possibly not well, is that the transposed notes are showing the actual octave they are being played in. That is the octave the concert pitched note would be in. A C on a piano and a C written on the same line for a clarinet are two totally different notes. The status bar shows this difference.

One of the instruments I tested this on was the glockenspiel, which is an extreme example of transposing instruments. A C written on the first ledger line is called a C6. This is because all notes are transposed 2 octaves.

In reply to by mike320

Hi Mike,

I understand your explanation.

A C on a piano and a C written on the same line for a clarinet are two different notes when played.

A C on a piano when played, sounds C.
A C written on the same line as the piano for a clarinet when played, sounds Bb.

Now, back the to problem:

A C4 on a piano when played, sound C4

A C4 written on the same line as the piano for a clarinet when played, sounds Bb3. But this note is being displayed as C3 on the status bar, and this display is contradicting the note being written on the lines which is a C4.

Sorry if I can explain well enough with my limited music knowledge.

Attachment Size
Bb-instrument-transpose-bug.png 64.77 KB

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Hi Jojo,

Thanks for your patience in helping me understand more.

With 2 sharps in the Bb instruments' key sigs, the note is still showing C3 when concert pitch is not selected, and showing Bb3 when concert pitch is selected.

I think my question was, why a C4 note is being display as C3 note at the status bar for Bb instruments.


Hi guys,

I can confirm this is a bug, because I have not learn music officially, I just need to find a way to explain this. Will be back with explanation.


In reply to by mobilegps

The notes in the file is:
Clarinet: 58 (Bb3)
Piano. 60 (C4)in concert-pitch: Since the clarinet is transposed, it needs to its value raises up a major second.
The software correctly raises Bb to C, but the octave number is inadvertently stuck.
it should be: Bb3 -> C4
in reality: Bb3 -> C3
If my theorem is correct: the octave numbers will be correct in concert pitch view, when you add D and E notes in normal view.
and the problem will appears only for the C note. (borderline / octave number passing point).

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

So: fix is not so easy :)
If a fix causes the problem (or side effect) elsewhere: It makes more sense to write an exception code (or check) for one of them or both.
it does not seem to be done with a single line (or single letter change) code.

I think they have problems with octave-clefs. for example: G8vb.
That is, in instrument.xml there is no special transpose for them (eg -7 diatonic; -12 chromatic).

In this case, a check is needed:

pseude code:

if "contains octave transposed clef" (
    // code pitch()
) else if "contains transposition" (
    // code epitch()
) else (
    // code *nothing special*

You already know these things.
Maybe someone is inspired and wants to write some code.
That's why I mentioned them.

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