Sidney Llyn 

The musical symbol 8vb (an abbreviation of ottava bassa, or “low octave”) is an indication to play notes an octave lower than written on the staff. 8vb eases the reading and writing of notes off the staff, which would otherwise have multiple ledger lines (see image).

8vb can affect a single note, or it may span several measures. In the latter case, it stops at the word loco, or at the end of its dotted, horizontal line. If an entire staff is affected, a tiny 8 will be sitting atop the clef.

Also Written:

  • 8a b
  • 8va bassa, “low octave”;  ottava sotto, “an octave under” (It)


oh-TAH-vah  BAH-ssah

Other Musical Abbreviations To Know:

  • Staccato
    A small dot written above or below a note that makes it brief in duration. (Not to be confused with a rhythm dot).
  • Marcato
    Informally referred to as simply an “accent,” a marcato makes a note slightly more pronounced than surrounding notes.
  • Sforzando
    Makes a note considerably louder than surrounding notes. When a single note is affected, the abbreviation sfz is used.
  • Legato or Slur
    Connects two or more different notes. In piano music, the individual notes must be struck, but there should be no audible spaces between them.

More Italian Music Commands:

▪  : "from nothing"; to gradually bring notes out of complete silence, or a crescendo that rises slowly from nowhere.

▪  decrescendo: to gradually decrease the volume of the music. A decrescendo is seen in sheet music as a narrowing angle, and is often marked decresc.

▪  delicato: “delicately”; to play with a light touch and an airy feel.

▪  : very sweetly; to play in a particularly delicate manner. Dolcissimo is a superlative of "dolce."

Reading Key Signatures:

  • All About Key Signatures
    Everything you need to know about the accidentals & key signatures.
  • Use the interactive key signature locator to identify or double-check your key.
  • There are always two keys that relate to one another more than any other key. 
  • Comparing Major & Minor
    Major and minor are often described in terms of feelings or mood. The ear tends to perceive major and minor as having contrasting personalities; a contrast that is most obvious when the two are played back to back. Learn more about major and minor scales and keys.


  • The 6 Enharmonic Key Signatures
    If you’re familiar with the circle of fifths (or you just know your way around the key signatures) you may have noticed a few anomalies. Some keys – like B-sharp and F-flat major – are seemingly absent, while others go by two names
  • The Inefficient Keys
    The circle of fifths shows only the working scales. But, if we expand on its pattern, we can see that it’s actually more of an infinite spiral, so there’s no end to the possibilities of musical scales.
  • Table of Working & Non-Working Keys
    See a clear visual of which keynotes are workable and which would be redundant.