Horn in F - Bass clef - Dorico does not know right transposition

When the bass clef is used for the horns, the notes in that clef are by custom written an octave too low. This means that when you shift from the “transposed score” to the “concert pitch score” Dorico would need to display the music a fourth higher (concert pitch). Unfortunately Dorico still transposes a fifth lower like in the treble clef.

Could you please change this transposing “mistake” ?


Hi Lokotus,

You are historically correct; however your informative statement is mostly applicable to 20th century and before usage. The complete definition of horn in F usage today is:

“Second, when horn parts are written in bass clef, they may be written an octave lower than expected, transposing up, rather than down as in treble clef. In today’s scores, horns always transpose down, even in bass clef; but the other notation was standard well into the 20th century.”

Sure makes it easier to remember for me.


Hi, dpjackca

From a global viewpoint, I would put a question mark on “In today’s scores, horns always transpose down”. It is true in some countries such as United States. Some European countries might be still “old schooled”, for example in Russia, contemporary composers transpose horns up in bass clef, and even sometimes still add brackets to group violoncelli and contrabassi.

Don’t mean to argue which is better or not. I can see Dorico is trying to be compatible with different notation style, I would appreciate if Dorico make the transposition/clefs configurable.

Well in this case (thanks for the history lessons) I would like the developers (feature request) to give us an option of how Dorico transposes horns when the bass clef is used.

Thanks lokotus

Can you not change the transposition by an octave in the HALion player?

well, the horn part changes between treble and bass clef. I would be need to automate the halion transponsition … gets complicated :unamused:

This problem does not affect ONLY Horn in F. It affects Horn in other keys as well. Because there are different parameters in play depending on the age of the score, I agree that this needs a fix. A transposition option during setup mode would be great.

I didn’t test, just interested in how Dorico handles bass clarinet, since it only sounds major second below the notation in bass clef instead of ninth.

In finale, they all use different clefs, for example for the horns: treble or bass 8va. For bass clarinet, treble 8vb or bass. I am very new to Dorico, so don’t know if it is practical here. Although Finale adds little “8” above or below the clef, it is easy to replace using the standard clef symbol.

There is also another issue with this: If you change to G clef, it continues to transpose one octave down…
Usually scores that include old style F clef notation alternate with G clef too. The only way I found for now is to have an instrument change (and hide the instrument change label). For sure this should be addressed in the future, maybe with a simply clef octave shift in the properties panel.

my horn player plays a whole section in G clef and the notes are fine for the G clef…then there comes an A3 (below the staves) - I could of course go on writing it in G clef but in my non-transposed-score for the conductor, this A3 becomes a D3 with 4 help-lines (transposing a 5th down). Unreadable for the conductor. But it makes what so ever no sense to change for 1 or 2 notes to F clef…how can I solve this problem - writing the whole part in G-clef but make it ‘readable’ for the conductor?
I have no idea.

I happened to just come across this in a Dorico New Feature video

Notation & Workflow Improvements | New Features in Dorico 3.5

He discusses the weirdness around horn notation and how it’s country dependent, see 2:10 (link). Hint, use the “Octave Shift” property and do it the way you like.

Thanx a lot.
That doesn’t really solve the problem.
Horn scores are written a 5th higher than non-transposed conductor-scores.
If I change the octave of my clefs the conductor gets very confused.
My problem is this:
My horn score is written in G-clef and at a certain point I have 2 notes like this:
Bildschirmfoto 2020-10-28 um 17.03.17.png
in my non-transposed conductor score it looks like this:
Bildschirmfoto 2020-10-28 um 17.02.48.png
it would be fantastic if it would be possible to change the clef ONLY in the conductor score.

Found the solution in the DORICO manual :slight_smile:


Select the clefs whose concert/transposed pitch versions you want to change. You can do this in Write mode and Engrave mode.
Choose one of the following options:
To change the concert pitch version of the selected clefs, choose Edit > Clef > Concert Pitch > [Clef].
To change the transposed pitch version of the selected clefs, choose Edit > Clef > Transposed Pitch > [Clef].

In Respighi’s “Pini di Roma” (Pines of Rome), the horn parts in bass clef are in the old style. But the authorized band transcription by Lucien Calliet reverses this and add the legend: modern notation. Both are published by Ricordi.

I’ve talked to 2 conductors. They both said that in horn player parts,
everything which is written in G-key sounds a 5th lower
everything which is written in F-key sounds a 4th higher

Horn players are automatically trained like that.
Very strange system (for me) :smiley:

I guess neither of them play any 20th-century music :slight_smile:

It’s a very sensible convention for natural (unvalved) horn parts, because it minimizes the number of leger lines on each staff. Nobody ever wrote non-transposing scores back then, so the notes in the attachment were the only ones ever written, whatever key the horns were in.
natural horn harmonics.png

Never judge people if you don’t know them Rob :wink: One of the conductors I asked is quite famous and is conducting everything from 18th century music up till 21st century music.
I think I can trust these people.
I also think there is not this ‘one rule’ how to write a horn part. It stays a ‘not precies’ science.
And I try to be careful about what I’m writing on the forum cause none -really none- of us here knows everything about whatever subject.

We only have your report of what you asked them and what they answered.

When you said “everything which is written in the bass clef…” that is just wrong. Most 20th/21st century scores don’t follow that convention.

The statement that “everything is transposed from C to F” is also just wrong. Composers as late as Brahms and Wagner wrote using the notation for natural horns, not Horns in F. Wagner sometimes wrote horns parts in 6 or 7 different transpositions at different times in a single score, to indicate that a valve horn player was supposed to use the same harmonics as the corresponding natural horn would have used, not “modern” (and easier to play) fingering.

Professional horn players should be able to read whatever transposition and notation convention is put in front of them.

In fact there are a few notorious instances where it is not at clear which bass clef notation the composer actually intended, since the music can be played either way and neither option “sounds obviously wrong”. (There are similar problems with some 18th century works using natural horns in Bb or C, which were made in two versions sounding an octave apart).

I spoke to one of the contracted horn players in the London Symphony Orchestra about this a matter of months ago.

“It depends on when it was published. Usually you can get a feeling from the style of the print. Occasionally with 20th century music it’s ambiguous”.

Peer, talk to some horn players. Your conductor friends are categorically wrong at least some of the time, regardless of how famous they are.



I suggest these texts for a start.
(Don’t trust conductors, if they are not Horn players …) :slight_smile: