Concert score vs. C score

• Dec 1, 2020 - 18:27

By default, MuseScore displays concert pitch scores with some octave clefs, and all the pitches are in the correct octave. I prefer it this way, personally, but my teacher has asked me to create a "C score" in which the numbers are not shown on the clefs (except the tenor vocal), which means some instruments (e.g. piccolo, contrabass) are displayed transposing in octaves.

First, I want to ask: Is this a normal practice in orchestral music? I've never seen it published, but my teacher says that's because I've only been looking at public-domain scores, and the practice didn't become common until the 1970s.

Secondly, does MuseScore have this ability? As a workaround, I could transpose the relevant instruments to get the desired graphical result, at the cost of having incorrect audio playback and needing a separate file for part generation.


It's "sort of" common, I guess, but mostly just because some software happens to handle octave clefs differently than others, not because it really is to anyone's advantage not to show the octave designations on the clefs. Most likely your teacher is just used to how Sibelius does it, which is different from how other scoring software does it. MuseScore doesn't support this specific way of doing things directly, so if it's really important to present it this particular way, you'll need to use a workaround like you suggest. Or, another in which instead of transposing the music for these instruments, you reset the transposition of the other instruments to 0, and then use a transposed score. I suppose a sufficiently clever person could find a way to automate that - and the reverse or re-establishing the correct transpositions - with a plugin. Or, you could maybe add duplicate staves to your score that have the transposed music for the octave transposing instruments, and then generate a "part" that includes these rather than the standard staves. Then you just need to keep in mind that any subsequent edits you would need to make to both source staves. Not sure if that really makes sense, but anyhow, it's something to play with.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Coming from orchestration classes in the early 70's. We were taught that piccolo and guitar sound an octave higher than written. String bass sounds an octave lower. This is indeed how Sibelius works. No automatic octave clefs.

Does the OP's teacher load scores into Musescore to listen? Or does he listen to an mp3. If an mp3, it seems easy enough to make the mp3 then change the clef and then change the octave of the part in question. I don't know how to select the entire bass part in MuseScore. Aside from selecting the first and last measure method. In Sibelius, all you do is click on a measure three times and the entire part is selected.

It is interesting to me that this teacher is bothered by this.

In reply to by bobjp

All octave transposing instruments have instruments that can be added that do not show octave clefs when showing transposed pitch. They do have octave clefs for octave transposing instruments in concert pitch though. The problem is the non C instruments (most clarinets and saxes for example) have different key signatures. One thing you can do is enter an appropriate non octave clef into the concert pitch display and change the octave of the instrument.

In reply to by bobjp

My teacher only receives PDF files. He believes it's better to use mental sounds exclusively. (I don't have the skill to do this yet, so I use software sounds on and off.) He uses Sibelius, which I don't have--I like MuseScore and I don't want to switch.

Ctrl+Shift+Home or Ctrl+Shift+End extends the selection horizontally to the beginning or end of the score, respectively.

In reply to by Jm6stringer

Oops. My one remaining active brain cell misfired. That cell has been queried and reminded that, of course, guitar sounds an octave lower. There ensued a rather animated exchange during which said brain cell insisted that it had relayed the correct information. The problem must have been in the Information Output Center. A formal request for an explanation sent to IOC has gone unanswered. Not a surprise. I have requested a system-wide meeting. Responses from BTU (Back the Truck Up) and WWYT (What Where You Thinking) are not suitable to reproduce here. A note from LED (Lame Excuse Department) reminded me that we are 70 and I should cut everyone some slack. There have been a flurry of interdepartmental emails ( most sent to the wrong department, causing even more confusion) about not wanting to attend yet another meeting, or complaining about how the chosen time conflicted with nap time, or that the topic really didn't have anything to do with them.

OCTAVE CLEFS: It's a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. – Boromir

I can never understand the objection to octave clefs. I think they serve as a useful reminder that the instrument does not play at written pitch, but if people really want to hide them then I think it would be easier if we just gave that option (e.g. as a style setting) rather than using a normal clef with octave transposition.

In fact we could probably just get rid of the notion of octave transposition entirely and just have a range of octave clefs and the option to make the little numbers invisible. You'd still see the number on the screen if "show invisible" is enabled, but it wouldn't print so that should keep everybody happy.

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In reply to by shoogle

Agreed. Probably would make sense to make a staff property so you can have the 8 for tenor voice (where people seem to not mind it) but not on contrabass or guitar etc. But no harm in keeping transposition as an option as well. To me it's more natural to think that way.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Right, but I'm arguing that we shouldn't. I think there should just be one guitar instrument that always has an octave clef, but there should be an option to make the little 8 invisible.

  • If you add an octave clef to an instrument then it becomes a transposing instrument.
  • If you transpose an instrument by more than an octave then it gains an octave clef.

The two features would be equivalent, but in either case there is an option to make the little 8 invisible.

In reply to by pauledoniger

(OP) My teacher wanted me to imitate how Sibelius works. I think octave clefs are more logical.

The teacher was satisfied with leaving the octave clefs, thus making it a true concert pitch score like I prefer, but including a note in the preface saying "This is a C score [as opposed to a concert pitch score]. Instruments X, Y and Z transpose in octaves, as indicated by the numbers attached to the clefs" as a nod to his C-score preference.

Giving users the choice is a good idea, though.

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