Here is a pic from my textbook, Adwell/Schachter's Tonal Harmony. It tells me what the soprano should be in the figured bass but there is a 2 next to both notes. What does that mean? enter image description here

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  • Any chance those are footnotes explained at the bottom of the page? Looks strange to me. Let's see if anyone's got an answer for it.
    – user45266
    Sep 10, 2021 at 7:00
  • whole page added, although I cant see anything that relates to that.... hmmm does it maybe apply to how many octaves above the bass the soprano should be written?
    – user35708
    Sep 10, 2021 at 7:48

1 Answer 1


These numbers indicate what we call octave designation, which these authors discuss in their chapter on key/scale/modes (depending on what edition of the book you have, these chapters may be separated).

With that said, the system they're using treats Middle C as C1. This means that Middle C is C1, the C an octave above that (the third space in treble clef) is C2, etc. Everything between C1 and C2 is labelled as a 1, everything between C2 and C3 (the C above the treble clef) is labelled as a 2, etc.

Thus the annotation here is telling you that your soprano pitch, D♭2, will be the fourth line of the treble clef, because it's the one within the C2 octave. In the next chord, that soprano will move up a major third to the nearby F2.

I've discussed octave designation in my answer to How do you refer to a note that is more than one octave above or below middle C?, but you'll notice that this specific system isn't in my answer. That's because this system is a variant of the Helmholtz system at the bottom of my answer, but one that uses Arabic numerals instead of hash marks.

  • 2
    In German music notation, a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers is used, and the middle C is "c1", but I'm not sure where else in the world this system is used.
    – Arsak
    Sep 10, 2021 at 11:56
  • PS: I didn't know it has a name, but indeed, afaik, Helmholtz-notation is the standard in Germany
    – Arsak
    Sep 10, 2021 at 12:06

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