How to Read Octave Commands
Musical symbols such as 8va and 15va indicate that a note or passage will be played in a different octave. These commands make it easier to read very high or low notes that would otherwise be written using multiple ledger lines:
Play one octave higher than notated on the staff.
8va stands for ottava (Italian for “octave”) and may be written a number of other ways: 8a; ottava alta; all’ ottava; ottava sopra, or simply 8 above the staff.
Play one octave lower.
8vb may also be written 8a b; 8va bassa; ottava bassa; ottava sotto, or simply 8 below the staff.
Play two octaves higher than notated.
15ma stands for quindicesima (“the fifteenth”) and may also be written alla quindicesima, or with 15 above the staff.
Play two octaves lower.
May also be written 15 below the staff.
See More Musical Symbols:
■Staff & Barlines ■Note Lengths ■Articulation Marks ■Repeat Signs
■The Grand Staff ■Dotted Notes ■Dynamics & Volume ■Segno & Coda Signs
■Time Signatures ■Accidentals ■Key Signatures ■Pedal Marks
■Tempo Commands ■Piano Chords ■Music Rests ■8va & Octave Commands