Bass in Bb (transposing instruments)

I have trouble to understand how the correct Bass (tuba) is displayed (and sounded).
I always add notes in Concert Pitch.
Inserting ‘Bass in Bb’ add an Bass in Bb in treble clef. Adding C3 (Bass C) is an lot below the treble cleff. I can not change the tuba as Bb instruments.

Normally I have 3 bass parts:

  • Bass Bb in bass clef
  • Bass Bb in treble clef
  • Bass Eb in treble / bass clef.

The same for baritone-saxophone (display in bass clef when in concertpitch mode).

Is it possible to change this in Dorico or is it possible to change the instruments in an XML files or something (adding correct clef in concert pitch and transposed pitch)
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If you’re inputting notes using your MIDI keyboard, you currently have to input notes at the written pitch rather than the sounding pitch for octave transposing instruments, so you’ll need to play an octave higher on your keyboard than you would expect. This will be fixed, hopefully in the 1.0.10 update.

Regarding the Bass in B flat and Bass in E flat, both of the ones we have at the moment are in treble clef only, as this is what’s normally used in British brass bands. You also want bass clef variants of these instruments?

Hello Daniel,

I’m a french tubist and I think that most of us would prefer having their parts in bass clef when playing in Bflat or Eflat.

The sousaphone is a Bflat, and more rarely Eflat instrument, but it seems to be considered as non transposing in Dorico.

That being said, there always are tubists who thinks any instrument in C, as well as saxophonists and other transposing instruments players (I use to work with such professionnal musicians, that have to transpose all the time), so I think that the best way to make everyone happy, is to provide an option tab that allow to set parts in any Tuning/Clef combination (you could have baritone saxophone thinked in Bflat in bass clef, etc…)

Thank you for caring and for the great piece of software being built here!


Thanks for your reply, Valentin. So it seems like I should add new variants for B flat and E flat bass, which use bass clef in concert pitch, and treble clef when transposed. When written in concert pitch, do you want to see any kind of octave transposition, e.g. do you want to see the B flat bass written up an octave so that it lies more within the staff for bass clef, or should it be written at actual sounding pitch?

In due course we will allow you to edit all of these definitions and make your own, but that requires quite a lot of UI work, so for now we’ll just do our best to accommodate the common requirements with the built-in types.

I was thinking about having both concert and transposed parts in bass clef. I’ve just been given a set of scores to be played with a Bflat bass, they all are in bass clef.
I’m giving you an example about three tuba parts (bass (or contrabass) tuba, Bflat bass an Eflat bass) sounding at the same octave. I don’t know if concert pitch parts have to be transposed for Bflat an Eflat basses, maybe yes, as done with string bass?
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I’m sorry, I just realized that the Bflat part is false: it should be one note lower, with the same key signature - first note is an E.

Just to check…

Bb Tuba in treble clef ‘C’ is fingered as open;
Bb Tuba in bass clef ‘C’ is fingered as 1/3 or 1 depending on octave.

I’ve never come across a tuba reading bass clef where a written ‘C’ would be open. Is that what you mean?

If so, this is interesting to me.
Also, if so, Dorico needs to be careful how it names these as most would expect Bb, BBb and Eb tubas to be non-transposing in bass clef.

Hello Steve,

No, that wasn’t… The fingering of a transposing instrument depends on the way you “think it”, not on the way it is written.

If you think a BBb tuba “in Bb”, a natural C will be fingered as 1+3 and you’ll think that it is a D
If you think a BBb tuba “in C”, a natural C will be fingered a 1+3 as well, but you’ll think that it is a C

Now, if the part shows “BBb tuba”, that means that it is transposed for who thinks “in Bb”, and it could be written in bass or treble clef.
If you think the BBb tuba “in C”, you should take the “contrabass tuba” part, which is not transposed.

My meaning was that most tubists (with any instrument) will now prefer reading in bass clef, since it is the one we use when teaching.

I assume it can be a big mess for people who don’t know much about tuba, I can write some summary sheet if interested.

This has always confused me when writing for horns and Bb trombones and now Bb Tubas. As a clarinettist and saxophonist, to me the whole things sounds like confused teaching…has this come from the brass band world? (I’m not saying brass band players are bad teachers BTW). As a clarinettist, I learned the clarinet and quickly realised that if I played a ‘C’ then concert instruments (or a piano, when first learning) had to play a Bb…it was only years later that it twigged that that’s why it’s called, clarinet in ‘Bb’. When I went to college and found out that trombone players use the same positions but call them different notes according to whether they’re playing in Bb (have I got that right) seems absolutely nuts to me. Either a note has a certain frequency (and historical precedence od calling it a certain letter) or it doesn’t. It seems a lot more logical to have instruments tuned in different keys (saxes in C, Bb, Eb…clarinits in C, Bb or A…etc) with players playing the same fingerings for the instruments, irrespective of clef or naming of the instruments. I suggest whatever the historical precedence was for using this system, we ought to think about ditching it and adopting some norm in 2017. If a tuba plays a concert ‘C’ with no valves pressed, then the correct octave for that note should be notated (it will most probably be bass clef, although I’ve no doubt the range of the instrument may be 4 or 5 octaves). If there is a Bb tuba (ie. one that plays a ‘C’ with no valves but sounds a concert ‘Bb’) then it should be notated as a transposing instrument like the rest. Has my last five minutes’ thoughts made any sense or am I just stating the obvious?

Thanks for replying. I’ve written for tuba a lot, but have only come across these cases:

treble clef BBb, written ‘C’ is fingered open and a Bb plays
treble clef Eb, written ‘C’ is fingered open and an Eb plays
bass clef BBb, written ‘C’ is fingered 1/3 and a C plays
bass clef Eb, written ‘C’ is fingered 1/2 and a C plays

Do some BBb tubists read a bass clef ‘C’, play it 1/3 so a ‘C’ plays, but they think it is a D??

I’m also a sousaphone player :wink:

You have also tuba in C, tuba in F etc …
It’s very complicated, you have so much combinations !!!

I looked at xml files (for windows) : \program File\steinberg\dorico\instruments.xml and \program File\steinberg\dorico\instrumentFamiliesDefinitions.xml

I made a saving of this file and i modify it

I create sousaphone.c (parent is sousaphone.bflat) and modifiy sousaphone.bflat, i put correct octave transposition, clef.bass etc …
you take instrument.brass.bass.bflat definition, you duplicate this and you modify definition, etc …

 *       <entityID>instrument.brass.sousaphone.c</entityID>
 *       <parentEntityID>instrument.brass.sousaphone.bflat</parentEntityID>
          <clefIDsForEachStave array="true">
*          <concertOctaveTransposition>1</concertOctaveTransposition>
*          <transposedChromaticTransposition>14</transposedChromaticTransposition>
*          <transposedDiatonicTransposition>8</transposedDiatonicTransposition>
*          <showTransposition>kFollowOptions</showTransposition>

i modify line with the (*)

Now it’s going very well … but it’s only a workaround …
But i now i must be carefull with such update of xml file (i’m programmer) and the next release will destroy all of this !!!
And if you have already used dorico and changed default instrument name, is more complicated, you have to re-install dorico, and immediatly modify the xml file for having instruments parameters as you want

I see error at the original xml file on sousaphone definition, transposition are all on Zero.

Wizard, there really were two different systems. A few decades ago it was common to find people who read one and not the other.

  1. Orchestras, Concert Bands, Big Bands: trombones, tenor tubas and tubas were concert pitch instruments.
    A (Bb…) trombonist reading in bass clef knew slide positions that made the actual written pitch play.
  2. British Brass Bands: Trombones, Tubas, Euphoniums, Tenor Horns all used the same fingering (‘C’ open) and all read treble clef (strangely, apart from the ‘G’ or Bb bass trombone which read in bass clef…).
    This required the music to be transposed into Eb and Bb parts in treble clef with octaves displaced so that the range of all instruments ran from F# below the stave (aside from pedal notes).

It’s still not uncommon to find brass banders who don’t read bass clef at all and (worse) not uncommon to find Bass Trombonists who transpose every part they play into treble clef Bb…

(for now I’m ignoring Tubas in other keys, F Wagners etc.)


Yes, there are some tubists who actually think their tuba as it is build, juste like saxophonists:

With a BBb tuba, reading a C on a C tuba concert part, fingering 1+3 and thinking D
With a EEb tuba, reading a C on the same part, fingering 1+2 and thinking A

I’m a part of them, since I played trumpet first then saxophone, and finally became a sousaphone and tuba player, despite that in french classical schools, every teacher would advise to think any bass or contrabass tuba in C (fingering for the same bass C heared : C tuba = 0, BBb tuba = 1+3, F tuba = 4, EEb tuba = 1+2. Now you can imagine yourself as a teacher on a classroom with these four different tubas and young students that think EEb tuba in C, or EEb, etc…, having to tell each one what note to play and what to finger, according to their own way of thinking!!).

As you said, all this depends on teaching and band experience, and I really think there is no best way of thinking, since everyone choose what fits the best.


Thank you very much for the sousaphone Bflat correction, I’ll try to do the same on Mac…

With a BBb tuba, reading a C on a C tuba concert part, fingering 1+3 and thinking D
With a EEb tuba, reading a C on the same part, fingering 1+2 and thinking A

This, then, is just transposition at sight, reading one note and thinking and playing another.
This is what some brass band tubists would do when faced with a bass clef concert pitch part (other than the dodgy trick of reading bass clef as treble clef for Eb players).
I used to be a trombonist and just knew two different sets of slide positions for treble (transposed) and bass clefs - much simpler.

So this doesn’t require bass clef transposing ‘players’ in Dorico, only treble clef.

Yes, but if you consider that tuba players are now much more used to read bass clef (as far as I know in France), when you write for BBb or EEb players, they all would prefer to have directly their parts in BBb bass clef an EEb bass clef.
I’ve just been given a set of BBb, EEb and CC tuba parts for a wind orchestra, they all are in bass clef. BBb Tubists in my bands want me to write BBb bass clef parts too. I mean, treble clef tuba parts are now considered as old fashioned…

Ehhh… thanks for all the post. But back to the question: in the Netherlands an Bb Tuba part is mostly written in Bass Clef. Playing a notated C will sound like an Bb (Bb instrument).
I can’t find the correct instrument in Dorico.

In Finale I play one C bass part (electric bass) and make 3 transposable parts (Bb in bass clef, Bb in treble clef, Eb in treble clef).

Ah, this is what I was asking, because I’ve never seen a bass clef tuba part in anything other than concert, not in brass, wind, big band or orchestral music.

So, read a ‘C’ in bass clef and play an open C, which comes out as a Bb or Eb.

You learn something every day!

I’m a trumpet player now, and treat my Bb as if it as in C - so low C is 1/3 etc. It’s better for my ears!

Thanks for all the replies.

As I said, I’m a wind player (from age ten) but started learning piano from the age of 13. Then it was a struggle to learn bass clef, partly because the piano is difficult full stop, but I’m also of the opinion learning to read music is much easier when one learns on a single line instrument (flute, clarinet, trumpet etc.). It allows you to learn a new fingering for a new note, and once learned lets you focus entirely on reading the music and translating it into fingerings.

I can see that traditions in different learning situations (brass bands etc) have produced these ambiguities, but for me it is simple. An instrument has a particular range. If the ‘open’ tuning of the instrument produces a concert C, we should endeavour I think to write it as a C. Anything else should be considered ‘an instrument in whatever pitch it produces’. I wouldn’t get too hung up on octave tranpositions (ie. tenor sax is written an octave higher than sounding…but lies between the two commonest clefs). It then makes the composer /arranger’s job a bit easier. That’s what I’m going to do.