The musical command 8vb used on the bass staff.
8vb replacing low ledger lines on the bass staff. Image © Sidney Llyn

Meaning of 8vb

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.


See 8va & 15mb.


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 Piano Music

 ▪  Sheet Music Symbol Library
 ▪  How to Read Piano Notation
 ▪  Memorize the Staff Notes
 ▪  Illustrated Piano Chords
 ▪  Tempo Commands Organized By Speed

Beginner Piano Lessons
 ▪  Notes of the Piano Keys
 ▪  Finding Middle C on the Piano
 ▪  Intro to Piano Fingering
 ▪  How to Count Triplets
 ▪  Musical Quizzes & Tests

Getting Started on Keyboard Instruments
 ▪  Playing Piano vs. Electric Keyboard
 ▪  How to Sit at the Piano
 ▪  Buying a Used Piano

Forming Piano Chords
 ▪  Chord Types & Their Symbols
 ▪  Essential Piano Chord Fingering
 ▪  Comparing Major & Minor Chords
 ▪  Diminished Chords & Dissonance
 ▪  Different Types of Arpeggiated Chords


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. Find out what this means.
  • 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.


    Learn About Enharmony:

    • 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.