OT question about voices (singers)

I am working on a score of a musical. I have both the full score and the rehearsal score (handwritten).

I was an instrumental music major decades ago (20 years now), and either this was never discussed or I forgot it as it was something I never worked used.

Here is the question:
In the full score, I see the male tenor part written in Treble Clef, and I see the male baritone sometimes written in Treble Clef. The rehearsal score has both voices written in Bass Clef.

What Clef do these voices normally read? When would it change (if ever)?

If the Tenor voice does read Treble Clef, is there an octave transposition there? Or does the voice really sing in the middle C and above range?


Tenor is indeed written an octave higher than it sounds: a written C5 is actually C4, or middle C.

In choral music, at least, baritone typically sings from bass clef rather than treble clef, but there is some variation, and I’m not sure whether the convention is different in musical theatre.

Thanks Daniel!!!

As a tenor singer myself — and engraver-aholic — I can tell that the parts I sing (opera mostly) are written in a special treble clef, with a little 8 under it. I think it’s only used for tenor singers. Barytone parts are written with a bass clef (at least in opera vocal scores). Hope this helps !

It does… I have heard of the treble clef with the 8 under it, but I was informed that is a more “archaic” way to notate things (even though to me it is more correct).

Do you still see the treble clef with the 8 under it in modern music?


Sure, speaking as a tenor myself, that’s what I would normally expect to see, though I’m also quite capable of singing the music even if I get presented with a regular treble clef.

Daniel, I literally laughed out loud.


Glad to give you a giggle.

I can confirm that the music I used to sing with choirs always was / is notated that way. Femal voices use a normal treble clef, tenors the treble clef with the small 8 beneath it (which just means that they sing an octave below the female singers, which is just natural) and the baritones / basses the bass clef.

Some pieces of music for e.g. 4 mixed voices are often notated just with two lines of music. One for the female voices, using a treble clef, and one for the male voices, using a bass clef. That’s what I’m used to very much. And the tenors I know usually don’t have problems reading the bass clef.