Not all bass clef notes are the same?

• Oct 23, 2020 - 22:17

I have to enter a piano part by hand. That's laborious. To make it easier, I added a bass clef staff below the piano staff, to enter the lowest long notes in the left hand piano part. In the "instruments" window, I wasn't sure what to call it, so I chose "contrabass." I renamed it to "piano" and set the instrument voice to piano. I noticed that notes on this staff sound an octave lower than they do in the bass clef piano staff. Yet the contrabass staff and the piano staff have the same kind of bass clef.

To make it work right, I switched the bass clef to "bass clef 8ve alta," in other words, the bass clef with the little 8 above it, indicating the notes in that staff are an octave higher than written.

I don't know if this is a bug. More likely a feature, but I'm curious. What is going on here?


Contra-bass was an unfortunate choice. It's otherwise known as double bass and by convention is written an octave higher than it sounds or in other words it sounds an octave lower than it is written. Assuming you want it to sound like a piano click on the staff name and change the instrument to piano. This will not change the pitch of the notes so they will be shown an octave lower than you entered them. Select whole staff and use ctrl+up arrow to move the notes up an octave.

In reply to by SteveBlower

Well, it's a feature, not a bug. Still, kind of confusing and seems inconsistent. For example, in treble clef, the tenor voice sounds an octave lower than it's written, but musescore requires the treble clef with the little 8 under it for it to play normally.

I'm not complaining, though. You probably have good reasons for doing it the way you did. In any case, I worked it out with little trouble.

MuseScore seems miraculous to me, and I really appreciate all those who have slaved over it.

In reply to by Timborino

All transposing instruments sound different than the notes written on their normal staves. In the case of the tenor voice, contrabass, piccolo, glockenspiel and several others the transposition is a multiple of octaves so their key signatures don't look like they transpose. In modern songs it is common to write the tenor voice by itself on a staff with the 8 below the the clef so this actually takes care of the transposition. Most instruments never use transposing clefs but rather the musicians and conductors know the transposition exists.

Three stave notation is pretty common in piano writing--in musescore, perhaps the easiest way would be to create a second piano part, with only one (bass-clef) staff, and hidden when empty. You can adjust the curly brackets to cover all three staves.
This might be more work than you need on the score you're currently working on, but consider it for future reference.

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