playback of upright bass is one octave lower

I’m currently considering switching from Sibelius to Dorico so I’m using the trial version of Dorico 2. The playback of upright bass is one octave lower, which is quite annoying. In the write mode, I have the note C4. In the play mode, it shows that the playback note is C3. When I adjust in play mode so that the note becomes C4, the note becomes C5 in write mode. Is there a way to fix this?

Joshua, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Bass is a transposing instrument; it sounds one octave lower than written.

Yes, Dan is correct, the double bass/contrabass/upright bass is a transposing instrument. Here are some sources:
“Since the range of the double bass lies largely below the standard bass clef, it is notated an octave higher (hence sounding an octave lower than written). This transposition applies even when reading the tenor clef and treble clef, which are used for the instrument’s extreme upper range.”

The main problem with the double bass is that when you hit C3 on a MIDI keyboard, the note that appears on the staff is C4, but the note that’s played during note entry is C2 (so it sounds correct, but it’s notated one octave too high). If you then exit note entry and click on the C4 that’s there, the note that’s played back is C3 (i.e., it plays the note as notated, not as entered). You must then move the note one octave down (to the C3 you entered on the MIDI keyboard) in order to have it notated correctly, and then it will also play back correctly (as C2).

The piccolo suffers from the same problem, but in the other direction (notated one octave below where it should be, so you have to move it up an octave after note entry). The Dorico team is aware of these problems and will hopefully fix them soon.

Bizarrely, Dorico seems to be playing my double bass part back TWO octaves lower than they’re notated, i.e. one octave lower than the bass would normally play as a transposing instrument. What this means is that during playback, no pitches below notated C3 (sounding C2) are played at all, as Sonic SE2 seems to be interpreting the C2 signal it’s getting from Dorico as needing to be transposed and then plays a C1 (would be my guess).

Am I the only person with this issue? A bit disappointing as I’m using the Dorico default VST…

Welcome to the forum, Alistair. I’m not sure what patch you’re using – surely not the standard HSO double bass combi sound – but you should be able to correct this by choosing the ‘Transpose up 1 octave’ expression map for the affected channel in the Endpoint Setup dialog.

Have there been any developments/corrections in this area? I am working (Dorico version*) in concert pitch display, transcribing a piano score. Notes copied from the 'cello stave to the double bass stave look the same, correctly for the display selection. However, when you click on them they sound the octave lower, so the play back is treating the part as a transposing one. If I change to transposed display, the clarinet stave changes correctly, but the double bass stave remains the same.

  • It appears not to be possible to copy the Dorico version display from the Help menu.

Octave transposing instruments (piccolo/guitar/double bass etc.) do not appear differently in transposed pitch vs. concert pitch, in accordance with probably every music style guide ever written (though feel free to correct me on this). It’s not my business to say that “this isn’t something to be corrected”, but if I were a betting man I’d bet that this will never be “corrected”, because it’s not wrong!

Are there style books whose authors claim to give advice to the designers of music software systems? For me, after 24 years working in Finale, in which display in concert pitch works the same way for all instruments, including double bass and piccolo, this comes not merely as news but as a nasty shock, because I have been working in concert pitch and putting concert pitch notes into my bass part when the bass is independent and copying the 'cello notes where I want a unison. Is it really what the designers intended? No exceptions are mentioned on the documentation page, “Changing whether layouts are transposing/non-transposing”.

IIRC Finale no longer shows octave transpositions when switching between concert and transposed views, so in that way it is like Dorico.

Hi kenm,

Are you using an instrument that was included with Dorico, or a 3rd party instrument? Some 3rd party instruments automatically transpose the double bass down an octave (or more accurately, they are “mapped” to the lower octave). When this is the case, Dorico’s default behavior would produce a sound two octaves below the notated pitch, and telling Dorico to send notes as written would result in playback an octave lower.

If this is the culprit in your case, it would probably have to be corrected in the 3rd party player’s GUI (for instance, Kontakt) or if hosting the plugin in Vienna Ensemble, there’s a place to do this in the instrument window.

p.s. Even if you’re not using a 3rd party instrument, have you double checked your expression map settings? I could be wrong, but it might be that even when a layout is set to display at concert pitch, the expression map settings might override this when playing back … ?

Kenm appears to be complaining that the double bass sound is automatically transposing down ONE octave, which is very definitely intentional, certainly as far as Steinberg are concerned.

Hi pianoleo,

Yes I did understand what kenm was saying, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to tell me. Could you please clarify?


He’s not complaining that Dorico’s transposing two octaves down, because it isn’t. He’s complaining that it’s sounding one octave below the written pitch, which is exactly how the music would sound if you put it in front of a real, living double bass player. At least, that’s my reading of the situation.

Yes, I understood that. What I’m saying is that in certain cases, the instrument plugin itself defaults to transposing incoming notes down an octave … in such cases, Dorico might be sending the correct pitch, but the note played back would still be an octave lower, through no fault of Dorico’s.

Certainly there are many scores where (for double bass more often than piccolo), the composer has specified that the part “sounds as written” or “suono reale” … I don’t know if the transposing/non-transposing layout is the place to tell Dorico this, or the expression map. (Most published examples I’ve seen have it as a footnote on the instrumentation page, and a brief note on the first measure of the score above the double bass part. For example, several Ligeti scores use this method.)

I think kenm wants playback to match his (non-standard, but also not infrequent/uncommon) notation, and in the world of virtual instruments, Dorico doesn’t have control over every link in the playback chain. I’m trying to be helpful here, in case non-Dorico factors might be responsible for the result kenm doesn’t want.

Basically, there are at least 3 places to check for wrinkles, before assuming the software is at fault or that a composer doesn’t understand the basic fundamentals of how double bass sounds are notated.

p.s. kenm, just noticed something else: you said notes are sounding an octave lower “when you click on them” … are they sounding correctly when you press play? This might have been changed in version 2, but I seem to remember that in at least one build of version 1, octave-transposing instruments played different notes when clicked versus during actual playback.

Kenm has clearly stated that he expects Dorico to display double bass pitches at “concert pitch” when a Layout is set to concert pitch, and only transposed by an octave when a Layout is set to transposed pitch. This really isn’t a question about VSTs, and it’s an intentional design decision on the part of Dorico’s development team, as has previously been stated by the development team on this forum.

You sound very certain of that, but I’m not so sure yet. No offense to anyone involved, but there’s enough ambiguity in his first post that it would be great if he could weigh in to clarify for us what he’s trying to convey. I understood his initial post to maybe, probably mean that Dorico is always displaying/notating exactly as he wishes, and that playback is the only thing behaving differently than he expected. But even here, some of his statements seemingly imply a different interpretation, so really we need him to clarify for us.

And for whatever it’s worth, his posts don’t come across as “complaining” to me, just a new-ish user struggling to find his way around in unfamiliar territory. Regardless, why don’t we all just choose to be civil to each other? Life’s too short.

Well, right; obviously it doesn’t matter whether the virtual instrument plugin is in VST format, or AU, or some other format. But the virtual instrument’s settings might be relevant, if it’s the case that Dorico is displaying exactly what kenm wants, and only playback isn’t behaving as he desires.

It’s a Dorico instrument. I’ve not been using playback, though I occasionally invoke it by accident. I don’t need it yet, and this laptop can’t cope with the torrent of notes that the composer has written for his solo violinist, so it sounds very rough. I thought the 'cello note had been copied incorrectly but hearing the note when I clicked on it was how I discovered that it was correctly copied into a transposing stave.

If it means playing from a concert pitch stave, I’m glad I’ve never played any Ligeti on my bass.

I thought there was only one way to read this: an expectation that concert pitch layouts should display octave-transposed instruments at their untransposed pitch (i.e. an octave lower than you’d expect in a regular double bass part). Kenm, please set us all straight on this point.

:laughing: To be fair, I don’t recall if it was concert pitch in the parts; probably was only in the score. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

So, to clarify:

  1. Is Dorico always displaying/notating as you expect, or only sometimes?
  2. Re: playback, have you checked your expression map settings for the bass? I’m not 100% sure if expression map settings are adhered to when “auditioning” notes (i.e., clicking on them), but if they are, changing the expression map will give you a very quick fix.