Treble Clef8 below - sounds like normal treble clef

Hi there,

Sorry if this is already answered elsewhere (I searched but didn’t find it).

I’m writing a piece for our quintet (SSATB), where the Alto is using a treble8 clef (below). So I added the 5 voices, then changed the treble clef of the alto to a treble clef with the 8 below it. However in playback, the alto voice plays in the normal treble clef range, so it sounds an octave higher than it should, which is a bit irritating :wink:

Is that something that’s going to be addressed with the next update, or am I simply missing a setting?

In Finale, clefs set the pitch of the staff, including the octave. In Sibelius, ottava 8’s on clefs are cosmetic only; they do nothing to the sounding octave. This approach was taken because there are instruments (such as Piccolo and Contrabass, and for that matter Tenor voice) that always read at an octave transposition regardless of whether their clef has a little 8 on it or not.

I assume that Dorico is taking the latter approach. It is an adjustment for people used to the Finale way, but I have come to see it as more sensible. All G-clefs put Middle C one leger line below the staff, etc.

Thanks for your reply Mark. I found a workaround by transposing the 3rd voice 12 semitones down in Halion Sonic SE which I use as my VST instrument. That works but feels a bit cumbersome to do every time.

I’ve encountered that Sibelius approach, but I have yet to see the sense of it. The whole point of using a clef with an 8 attached is to change the sounding pitch.

Rinaldo-- May I respectfully disagree? Singers in the Tenor range, as well as instrumentalists who play instruments that sound an octave lower than written, such as String Bass players, already KNOW that their sounds will be an octave lower, whether the little 8 is attached to their clef or not. The clef-with-8 notation was invented for the benefit of students and others who don’t already know that certain voices and instruments transpose by an octave.

To use your words, the “whole point” of the little 8 is to serve as a ‘reminder’ to those (not the performers themselves, who already know) reading the score or part. The altered clef has NO altered function, in and of itself. Any expert guidebook on notation practice will bear me out on this. Any good orchestration textbook will as well.


I’m inclined to agree with L3B - the little 8’s don’t have any point IMO.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen alto voice parts written an octave high with a G clef - though there is a perfectly standard alto clef (with middle C on the middle line) which is almost the same thing!

Apologies for the delayed response. I hadn’t checked this topic in a while, being caught up with end-of-semester teaching duties and such. Anyway:

The clef-with-8 notation was invented for the benefit of students and others who don’t already know that certain voices and instruments transpose by an octave.

It’s true that the octave treble clef was created in an effort to “rationalize” writing for the tenor voice, so that it would sound in the indicated octave like other voices. However, the extensions of this principle were (as far as I have seen) initiated by composers seeking to avoid a clutter of “octave higher” dotted lines (or leger lines) in their music. Britten, for one, would use it in his piano writing for unusually high treble or low bass passages. It has a very specific musical function there, and is certainly not a concession to the ill-informed.

I in fact wasn’t aware of their use for octave-transposing orchestral lines, and am just as much against that as you are. One of the first things I have to emphasize to my orchestration students each year is that piccolo and contrabass transpose the octave automatically, and you don’t have to (indeed, must not) do anything additional to signal the fact. So, when I use such clefs (rarely), I mean them to pull their weight.

I’m new to this forum and I have a question regarding the tenor clef.

For scholar four parts harmony we are using unaccompanied SATB with Soprano clef (C4/first line) - Alto clef (C4/third line) - Tenor clef (C4/fourth line) - and bass clef (F3/fourth line) as shown in the following image:
All C in this example should play back a C4 but the Tenor plays back a C3.

Can someone help me to understand why the Tenor is transposed one octave lower and gets therefore below the Bass?

The Tenor voice in Dorico/HALion is considered a transposing instrument (similar to Double Bass).

(I don’t have to agree with it, but that’s how Steinberg envisions it.)


I agree with Derrek on this; this behaviour seems perverse to me.

I see you’re new to the forum and so perhaps new to Dorico. A way to avoid this problem in future is not to use the player called “Tenor” at all. Instead, in Setup mode, add a different player, such as Alto or Baritone, change its name after clicking on the little > at the left, so you get this:
Name change.PNG
. Then in Write mode change the clef, and all should be well.

I apologise if you’ve already worked this out!