A way to get 8va over/under just one note

• Oct 19, 2014 - 15:53

How can I let one note sounding an octave lower than I have written it on the score? Brouwsed the forum history and found someone having that same problem but cannot reproduce the given solution.
In the 'Lines' palette only a group of notes is possible via the 8va or 8vb symbol. Trying to anchor it on a single note seems impossible because I cannot get rid of that line accompanied with it. But perhaps I do not understand this correctly?
I am now using the 2.0 version.


Add otava - by default this includes the whole measure.
Double-click on the line. Use [Shift]-ArrowKey to shrink (or stretch) the line (decrease or increase the number of notes selected).
Optionally, right-click and select "Line Properties" then change "8" to "8va" and untick "hook" to remove the line.

Attachment Size
Otava_SingleNote.mscz 1.47 KB

Yes, it seems that it has something to do with the clef. Mine has the 8 below it. This is usual
for a guitar score.
To make things not more complicated as necessary, I give in the attachment
the measure where I want the first two bass c notes sound an octave lower in stead of writing them an octave lower. How can I do this?
Thanks for your time.

Attachment Size
OctaveProblem.mscz 1.86 KB

In reply to by JoeAlders

Add the 8vb, press [Shift]-Arrow several times (each press jumps one segment of time with a segment being equal to the smallest note).

BUT - there may be a bug here (or, at least, a lack of a feature) since this affects the upper notes playback as well as the bass notes (which I presume that you do not intend?).

The only way I could get the effect you want (or the effect that I think that you want) was to enter the bass notes first (in the First Voice), enter the 8vb, flip Voices 1&2 and then enter the upper notes.

Attachment Size
OctaveProblem_2.mscz 2.03 KB

In reply to by JoeAlders

First: in general, there is no way in MuseScore - or in standard music notation period as far as I know, for that matter - to specify that you want an ottava symbol to apply to one one voice and not other voices. In MuseScore, you can use Shift+Left/Right to change the *length* of the ottava (and make sure you use Shift; otherwise it affects the length *visually* bu not *aurally*), but by definition, an ottava always applies to all voices of the staff within that span.

However, in your case here, you can get around that, since the bass notes actually occur simultaneously with a rest only. Simply add *separate* ottavas markings to the two "C" bass notes, shortening each (again, be sure to use *Shift* plus left/right or you are changing only the appearance of the line, not the behavior). If you try to extend a single ottava over both bass notes, then by definition, it will apply to the intervening sixteenths as well.

So, like this:


which looks and plays just as expected (I assume you are aware that a guitar would not ordinarily be able to play that low C).

Attachment Size
ottava-single-voice.png 9.51 KB

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc, your explanation worked and I did learn something about those ottava's.
Yes, I am aware the Guitar cannot play that low c but I am trying to transcribe a piece originally
written for Lute and want to hear how this piece sound before making some (minor)alterations in order to let it fit the range of the Guitar. MuseScore does a nice job transcribing a piece from one
key to another!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, I stumbled on this old thread and thought I'd provide an example of how this technique is used in serious published guitar music. The attached is from Frank Koonce's definitive edition of Bach's lute works, probably the most-used volume of this material. As you can see, single-digit 8s are placed on many notes to indicate a dropped octave in the manuscript versions. When dealing with baroque lute works, and other material from instruments with subbass strings allowing extended ranges, the use of single-note 8vb annotation is helpful because the bulk of the material is in the normal range, and only selected bass notes must be shown in a lower octave. I believe the use in Koonce's and other important publications makes this a legitimate engraving choice. Perhaps this has been addressed again since this old thread but I didn't find any more recent discussion. I use these 8s in many arrangements and transcriptions, and would welcome an easier way to create them.

In reply to by Shoichi

Yes this is basically what I do. Lines attached to single notes aren’t completely convenient from an editing standpoint, but they’re manageable. I posted this example to show a legitimate published case, since there was some question about the practice.

In reply to by spinality

Thanks, since the years since this thread was started I've seen one or two other examples, so I do know it's not completely unheard of, just non-standard and quite rare.

Meanwhile since the line affects all voices, I'd recommend just adding the note at the desired sounding pitch but using the "Fix to line" setting in the Inspector to make it appear where you want, then add the "8" as text.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

@spinality: I own this book by Frank Koonce.

Don't bother with ottava lines or the "Fix to Line" function. That's not the point here.

It is simply an editorial notation symbol as Frank Koonce himself written in his presentation (just the page before the BWV 995 suite itself). I quote: "A small italicized "8" or "16" below a note indicates that the note is transposed one or two octaves from the original register to accommodate the guitar".

For the guitar and your score, you have to write the notes and play them exactly as written, nothing more.

Those little 8's only tell you that in the original score (for the lute), those basses were one octave lower, which you can't get on the guitar! This is extremely common in lute music adapted for guitar.

Most of publications do not even mention this. It's really up to the arranger's (and/or publisher's) decision. Sometimes these symbols are accompanied by brackets. Which I personally prefer, to avoid any ambiguity with another number onto the score.

Anyway, for the input, nothing complicated (what I do): a simple text, the 8, in italics, that I put in a palette for reuse, then, once the 8 is in place on the first note concerned, in normal mode, I navigate in the score with the right arrow, and I copy-paste, simply. Or if you prefer, piecemeal, as and when it happens. But it's really not much to do.

In reply to by cadiz1

@cadiz1: yes, I understand his use of the notation. However because I play 7- and 8-string instruments, I can reach those notes, and I really like the convenience of the compact representation. However I guess I’ve come to view it as so normal that I forget his original intent, viz. that these were annotations. I have come to think of them as single-note ottavas for actual notes. Anyway, I create a lot of scores where I much prefer using the ‘8’ rather than a half dozen ledger lines. But I must now agree that my usage is idiosyncratic. Too bad because the resulting scores are much more readable.

In reply to by spinality

Ah, I hadn't seen (on this thread anyway) that you use 7- and 8- string instruments (8, 10, 11 and 13-string, for me!)
In this case, the use of ottavas lines or "Fix to line" re- become valid again! :)
It's a simple editing job to do. Nothing special. Choose the one that suits you best.
See: Bach.mscz

In reply to by cadiz1

Great example, thanks for posting this. I'm envying your 10, 11, and 13-string instruments, but am afraid I'd never escape that rabbit hole. It seems inevitable, eventually, however. I do have harp guitars with subbasses as well. I do find this notation technique very clear, and superior to ledger lines in such situations. I don't know how wide its use has become; I hope others are also using it. Certainly, the guitar family has some odd notation practices that will never be regarded as standard by the rest of the engraving world. But if we can write intelligible scores, even if it involves some novel elements, that's a big step.

In reply to by spinality

" I do find this notation technique very clear, and superior to ledger lines in such situations. I don't know how wide its use has become; I hope others are also using it."

From memory (I haven't checked my entire repertoire of multi-string guitars), but it seems to me that this notation is the rule. Or, it has become so over time, I don't recall very well.

Anyway, for example, in a score/rather a method for Alto-Guitar (11 strings/ arranger: Nils Klöfver) published in 2020 by the Productions d'Oz, a major publishing house in today's guitar world, check out an excerpt from this work:


In reply to by cadiz1

Thanks, a good example. I have always resisted the idea of using the Grand Staff for guitar. I understand why Johnny Smith preferred it and felt that traditional classical guitar practice was not ideal. However, I desperately want to make scores as few pages as possible. So I'm constantly reformatting and cutting/pasting to come up with compact representations. This is actually my biggest complaint about tab: I don't so much mind seeing it (well: yes, I do, but that's another topic) but I hate the fact that a one-page score now suddenly takes three pages. I generally rely on an iPad for viewing music. I haven't taken sheet music to a job for many years. Since that's how I work, I prefer to practice and study that way as well. So avoiding both tab and grand staff has been a strong objective. The subscript '8' notation is a good solution for our special needs, where only selected bass notes are likely to require more than the familiar four-to-five ledger lines. My eight-string guitars are generally strung with a high course as well, so I have ledger lines on that end as well. I recognize that this is even more abnormal however, although your altguitar scores no doubt have the same issue at times. Thanks much for your helpful comments.

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