I'm working on the piano solo version of Rhapsody in Blue, and I'm unsure - when there is an 8 underneath this E, is it meant to be played as just the lower E, or as a full octave (as in the measure before)?

excerpt of score with "8" below note

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    "When in doubt, always inspect at least two other editions" <-- cellocgw's First Law of Score Misprint Discoveries May 26, 2021 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


This notation is incorrect, but it does save space here (better would be "col 8" or "col 8vb" but "+8vb" or "col 8vb" are often used): the E should be played in octaves exactly like the bar before. In the piano part for the piano and orchestra version the octaves are written out.

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  • Explanation: if written as in the bar before, the low note would overlap the next system, therefore this space-saving notation is used.
    – guidot
    May 25, 2021 at 19:19
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    It should be col 8 or col 8va. The letter a here does not stand for alta.
    – phoog
    May 26, 2021 at 3:37
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    @phoog We've had this discussion before. It may not be correct but '8vb' (short for '8va bassa') is very common.
    – PiedPiper
    May 26, 2021 at 8:36
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    Well, the important thing is to include the term "col" if you want to add a note an octave lower. Whether you write "col 8" or "col 8va" or "col 8vb" does not disturb what you mean. May 26, 2021 at 10:12
  • Lars Peter Schultz's comment is critical: without the "col" or "con", no note is added an octave lower. I've made an answer detailing this.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 26, 2021 at 12:35

Purely as written, with no "con 8" or "col 8", the sheet music's 8 in the question indicates that the E should be played an octave below how it is written, and no E should be added below.

This reflects how Musescore (and likely Finale/Sibelius) would interpret that 8 "line" marking.

If the editor meant that to save space, and the piano solo version really does match the orchestral piano part version, then the editor mucked up and didn't notate the music correctly: it's that simple.

  • The editor did muck up, and the notation is incorrect. That whole section is a solo cadenza in the original: the solo piano version is identical there. I'll edit my answer to make that clear.
    – PiedPiper
    May 26, 2021 at 14:36

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