The musical command 8va on the treble staff.
8va used in place of ledger lines. Image © Brandy Kraemer

Definition of 8va:

The musical symbol8va is:

  1. an abbreviation of ottava, Italian for octave (otta is the Italian feminine of “eight”).
  2. a musical command indicating a note or series of notes will be played an octave higher than written on the staff. 8va makes it easier to notate and to read notes off the staff, which would otherwise have multiple ledger lines (see image).

    8va 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.


    See 8vb & 15ma.


    Also Known As:

    • 8a
    • allottava, “at the octave”;  ottava alta, “high octave”;  ottava sopra, “an octave over” (It)


    Pronunciation: al'  oh-TAH-vah;  oh-tah'-vah  AHL-tah

    More Musical Abbreviations:

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    ?Musical Articulation:

     ? staccato
     ? tie
     ? (rfz) rinforzando
     ? arpeggiato
     ? accentato

    Volume Commands & Symbols:
     ? (mf) mezzo forte
     ? (sfz) sforzando

     ? al niente
     ? (fp) fortepiano

    Common French Musical Terms:
     ? à l’aise
     ? doucement
     ? en ralentissant
     ? mi-doux
     ? très vite

    German Musical Commands:
     ? anschwellend
     ? lebhaft
     ? geschwind
     ? fröhlich
     ? schnell