I'm writing a montuno two piano ensemble and primo has its melody in the right hand completely duplicated by the left, an octave lower. How could this be abbreviated in the score? I can't find any piano examples and I'm not very familiar with orchestral sheet music, but I guess it's something like basso continuo?

  • You could start it off to clarify what you want, then write under it Con 8vb under the right hand part.
    – Jomiddnz
    Mar 20, 2021 at 8:15
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    There is no standard notation for this, but @Jomiddnz idea is your best option. However, is there some reason to abbreviate? For a. performer, it will actually make things harder to read.
    – Aaron
    Mar 20, 2021 at 8:40
  • @Aaron I thought that this kind of abbreviation would make things easier, because the melody is the exact same, just an octave lower. In my mind, it would be easier to sight-read, as for the fingering - if I'm specifying it, then it could be above/below the note to indicate which hand it's for.
    – GreatCorn
    Mar 20, 2021 at 8:50
  • @Jomiddnz The solution is simple and straightforward. I'm going with it.
    – GreatCorn
    Mar 20, 2021 at 8:51
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    You wrote in your post "I can't find any piano examples". The reason you can not find examples is that when the hands are playing in octaves it is written out in both hands. Please do the same. @Aaron is right that it is the far best for the performer. Good examples: Chopin sonata 2, the last movement, the entire movement is written in octaves in the two hands except the last bar, Schubert the "Trout" quintet in the piano part, there are lots of octaves in the two hands. In both cases they are always written out in both hands. Mar 20, 2021 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


The convention is just to write out the notes in both clefs. Con 8vb might sound attractive, but it is used for doubled bass notes in the bass clef when the ledger lines get confusing-- it really isn't meant for this purpose.


I come across this in practice/teaching material, where for example the Primo (student) is the same melody in both hands while the Secondo (teacher) is providing the harmony.

There (although aimed at students, not performers) the convention seems to be to write both hands in full and note the octave shift with 8va alta/bassa, in some modern engravings on the clef itself.

See for example Diabelli Op. 149 ("Melodische Übungsstücke"): https://imslp.org/wiki/28_Melodische_%C3%9Cbungsst%C3%BCcke%2C_Op.149_(Diabelli%2C_Anton)

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Or from some student material I own (don't do this in any non-practice piece, it's considered non-standard notation):

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  • Your student material looks like it was written in Musescore - the faded forte marking is a dead giveaway, and the use of the 8va treble clef in what I assume to be piano music definitely helps. (I don't recall any of my piano books ever using that clef, and none of my music teachers ever taught it - you have been warned.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 22, 2021 at 14:14
  • @Dekkadeci , the faded forte marking is no give away. It could also be Finale or Sibelius. The same can be said of the 8va treble clef. It is one of the standard possibilities within the subject of clefs. It is rarely applied in piano music though, But in a case where the whole piece has an upper staf that is constantly an octave above the lower staff as in the example shown it actually makes sense. Mar 22, 2021 at 20:09
  • @Lars Peter Schultz all the notation guides I've seen advise against it. It's too easy to miss the 8 at the top of the clef, especially since it's nonstandard. It's far clearer to use the standard 8 and dotted line above.
    – phoog
    Mar 23, 2021 at 6:19
  • @Dekkadeci I didn't say that it was good material :) It is actually MuseScore but I don't see that as a problem as long as it's basically just a warmup exercise. And (albeit I'm just a student myself), I tend to agree with Lars Peter Schultz here: if the whole piece is written with an octave shift, then this notation does not hurt. I definitely see the counterarguments for "real" pieces though, especially if there are clef changes. I'll edit my answer accordingly.
    – D. Kovács
    Mar 23, 2021 at 6:51
  • @phoog, you are right that it is too easy to miss the 8 at the top, but you can't miss that the notes in the right hand are exactly the same as in the left hand, so you can't play them as written. Anyway, in the music school where I work I have made many arrangements with a whole group of piano players where they play in different registers. It is my experience that students have a tendency to even miss 8 signs with a dotted line, so it is best to write music in the right octave. But if it is a beginner who has only learned to read the notes around middle C you do need the octave signs. Mar 23, 2021 at 19:34

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