ADVANCED THEORY - Lesson 10 - Octave changes

Andrei Moraru

Well-known member
Nov 11, 2019
Guitar Experience (years)
So now we're supposed to like jump up and down on an instrument or what?
  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Octave change markers
1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we are going to talk about octave change markers and how they impact a song. So, let's have some fun.

2. Octave change markers

If you take a look at a piano, you'll notice that it has a lot of possible notes on it. And if you remember, each staff has only 5 lines on it, so in order to represent some notes on it, you would have to use helper lines. That is all fine and dandy until you have to place a note at either end of the piano spectrum on your sheet. The sheer number of helper lines would probably make some people interrupt their virtuoso experience in order to figure out what they should be playing.

And that's where octave change markers come into play. These markers inform a musician that the notes on the sheet are meant to be played an octave higher or lower, depending on the marker of course. Here is how octave markers look on a music sheet:

And here it is played back.

The process of playing a note a number of semitones or octaves higher is called transposing by the way, in case you encounter this term and are unsure of what it means.

There will be some music sheets where these markers are written as 8va (for transposing a section an octave higher) or 8vb (for transposing a section an octave lower).

And finally, you may also encounter sheets that use the 15va or 15vb markers, which means that you have to transpose a note or a section by two octaves.

And yeah...that about covers it for this one. In the next one, we are going to discuss various articulations that you may encounter. See you then.