Octave-Displaced Staves in Concert Scores with Transposed Parts in Finale

Before reading this article, please see: Concert Pitch, Transposing and Octave Displaced Instruments : A Prelude.

Instruments which are not considered “transposed” per se, but written in a different octave than where they sound are referred to as octave-displaced instruments. Examples of octave-displaced instruments are Glockenspiel, Piccolo, Guitar and Contrabass.


The current convention for scores in Concert Pitch specifies that instruments which transpose at the octave-only be displayed at their written pitches, e.g. mostly within the staff, rather than requiring numerous ledger lines.

Reading a full score is complicated enough without forcing the conductor to always count ledger lines!

Additionally, in modern scores, It is understood that instruments such as the piccolo, guitar, contrabassoon and contrabass sound an octave above or below where written, and so the small reminder number 8 (or 15 if two octaves) above or below the treble or bass clef has fallen out of popular use.

If you think about it, the convention of written pitches makes a great deal of sense; The Glockenspiel sounds two octaves (15ma) above where written; the highest written note for Glockenspiel, C above the staff, requires nine (9) ledger lines to display at concert pitch!

Finale supports the older convention of “octave clefs” for these instruments; displaying a small 8 (representing one octave) above or below the treble or bass clef.


Like a lot of pro level Finale users, I was hoping to see an enhancement feature for Octave-Displaced Instruments at Written Pitch in Concert Scores as part of the Finale 2014 update. Alas, support for regular clefs for octave-displaced instruments in Concert Scores for Finale was not to be; at least not this year. So, let’s see how we can bring our Finale Concert Scores up to date…

To create Concert Pitch scores in Finale that use the modern clef convention, we need four things to work together: (1) the correct display of the notation at written pitch in a concert score, (2) correct display at written pitch in the parts, (3) playback at the proper pitches in the score, whether concert pitch or transposing, and (4) regular clefs (not octave clefs) in both the score and parts.

We’ll cover how to do the first three of these in this tutorial.


Let’s talk about instrument transposition for a moment, because it ties in with our discussion about octave displacement. Take a look at Finale’s Transposition feature. In Finale 2012 and later, this is found in the Score Manager>Instrument List.


In Finale 2011 and earlier, the Transposition settings are part of the Staff Attributes.


As mentioned in the previous post “Concert Pitch, Transposing and Octave-Displaced Instruments : A Prelude“, the transpositions for some instruments are so far away from concert pitch, that in addition to being transposed by some interval, they are also octave-displaced.

Examples of these are Baritone Saxophone or ContraAlto Clarinet (These Eb instruments sound an octave and a sixth lower than written), and Bass Clarinet or Tenor Saxophone (These Bb instruments sound an octave and a Major second lower than written – e.g. transposed up a ninth).

For these instruments which are both transposed and octave-displaced, not only are the notes transposed, but the clef in the transposed part is changed in the parts to facilitate readability.

Finale provides a transposition option to display a different clef in the part, and in fact, for instruments like the Bass Clarinet and Baritone sax, does this automatically.


Finale handles (1) instruments at concert pitch, (2) transposed instruments without octave displacement and (3) transposing instruments with octave displacement beautifully, allowing you to show and play back your scores in either concert pitch or transposed view. However, as mentioned in the previous post, there is a fourth category; instruments which are Octave-Displaced only.


Modern Concert Pitch scores use written pitches and regular treble and bass clefs for instruments which are octave-displaced only.

For some reason, Finale has never supported this modern convention directly. However, Finale does have a few of the old-style octave clefs to select from, which will play back correctly in a concert pitch score:


In the Change Clef dialog, clefs number (6) and (7) raise the visual notation an octave (e.g. the notes sound down 8vb from where notated.) Clefs labeled (E) and (F) lower the visual notation an octave (e.g. the notes sound up 8va from where notated).

Unfortunately, there is no octave clef in the default Change Clef dialog that will work with Glockenspiel, which sounds 15ma (two octaves up). So, there is no built-in way to create a score in concert pitch where Glock will both display and play back correctly. I’ll cover this in a different tutorial. Stay tuned.

These Octave Clefs in combination with Instrument Transpositions that use a different clef than the score offer us the lion’s share of our modern score workaround.

Since it is possible to change the clef of a transposing instrument for the part, there is no reason we can’t use a similar technique for an octave-displaced instrument like Piccolo or Contrabass.

We need to see the written pitches which also sound in the correct octave for playback in the Concert score, while displaying the correct written pitches in the part. To achieve this, we use the archaic “sounds 8vb reminder octave clef” for the concert score, and the regular clef in the part, like this:


With these clef changes applied, view / play back the score and then view the part. The Concert Score and the Part will display the same notation (written pitches). The octave clef in the concert score allows the instrument to sound 8vb. In the part, we change to the regular bass clef and also transpose the part up an octave.

Switching between Concert  / Transposed score views will look and sound the same. The only difference is that when viewing the score in Concert Pitch, you will see the small 8 below the bass clef for the Contrabass Instrument. Playback will now be correct regardless of whether the score is Transposing or Concert Pitch.

Using the above technique, we’ve achieved (1) the correct display of the notation at written pitch in a concert score, (2) correct display at written pitch in the parts, (3) playback at the proper pitches in the score, whether concert pitch or transposing.

The only step that remains to bring our scores up to modern day standards is (4) regular clefs (not octave clefs) in both the score and parts.

And that is a topic for a separate tutorial. If you’ve hung in this long, you’ll be pleased to know that the final step is a relatively easy one.


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