Octave Tenor Clef

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nolinesbarred
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Octave Tenor Clef

Postby nolinesbarred » 22 Nov 2008 07:05

Could someone please answer this question:

Is the tenor voice part of, for example, an SATB choral arrangement *always* sung an octave lower than written when it is written in a treble clef? Sometimes the little "8" appears below the treble clef sign and sometimes not. Does it make any difference whether the "8" appears or not? (We know that when the "8" appears the music is sung an octave lower - but what if the "8" does *not* appear for the tenor voice? Do we always assume the music is sung an octave lower?)

Please forgive our abysmal musical ignorance.

nolinesbarred
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby nolinesbarred » 22 Nov 2008 07:58

Supplementary question:

I have noticed that some choir directors, when playing through the tenor voice part, play it in the treble clef - even when it is clear that the tenors will be singing the part an octave lower than written. Why do they do this?

Cdalitz
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby Cdalitz » 22 Nov 2008 09:55

Using the violin clef (G2) with (or without) an 8 below for the tenor and alto part is a 20th century oddity. I do not know what the exact reason was for abandoning the appropriate tenor or alto clefs (C4 and C3), but I guess that it simply was a surrender to the musical illiteracy of the singers.

Whether a part with a violin clef in a modern edition should be sung by men or women can only be concluded from the context. When it is a transcription form an older edition, a look at the original edition should make the situation clear.

Concerning playing voices on the piano an octave higher, I would conjecture that this makes the pinao better hearable. When pracitzing with other intruments (eg. a violin or a lute), some voices might need to be played at a different octave due to the limited ambitus of the instrument.

vaarky
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby vaarky » 22 Nov 2008 18:25

I think this is because of the influence keyboards gained in Western musical training. The two clefs used by pianists are what the majority of people learn while they're young, what most music conducting and musicology programs require their majors have masters. A far greater set of adults doing Western music nowadays know those two clefs than any other clef.

DrewE
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby DrewE » 22 Nov 2008 20:01

At the risk of exposing my ignorance (which is broad), I'll attempt to answer the original query. My understanding is that a tenor part written using the G clef is always intended to be sung an octave lower than notated, regardless of the presence or absence of a numeral 8 dangling from the clef. I'd think that, in most cases, it should also be pretty obvious from the range of the part in question.

In general, what clefs are used for what purposes seems to be a rather arbitrary choice, at least on the surface. This is especially evident in band music, where the choice of clefs and of writing in concert or transposed pitch seems to have largely been left to the imagination of the original instrument maker, or the roll of the dice, or something. (When considered historically, of course, some of these are more understandable, but others are still baffling to me at times.)

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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby bobnotts » 22 Nov 2008 20:16

I have noticed that some choir directors, when playing through the tenor voice part, play it in the treble clef - even when it is clear that the tenors will be singing the part an octave lower than written. Why do they do this?


Because they're not reading the clef properly. Some choir directors aren't singers themselves, of course, and this may affect their understanding of a tenor line, especially if the little 8 is missing from the clef. I can't think of a situation in which it would be beneficial for a singer to have his/her part played at the wrong octave unless they were going to temporarily sing it at that octave so as not to strain their voice.
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nolinesbarred
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby nolinesbarred » 22 Nov 2008 23:21

Thank you all so much. Your responses to my queries have been enlightening, although being only semi-literate (musically) I am a bit mystified by talk of violin clefs, etc. I intend to work on that though.

DrewE and bobnotts: You have confirmed what I thought, i.e. that the tenor line is always sung an octave lower when written in the treble clef regardless of whether there is a "dangling" 8 (thanks for the term DrewE - it has entered our ensemble's lexicon) and that a choir director (or accompanist presumably) who plays the tenor part an octave higher than they should - well, probably shouldn't; I find this practice annoying because I sometimes use one of the tenors' notes as a cue for my own part (which is alto) and when it is played an octave too high I am thrown into confusion.

Another annoying thing I have noticed is that in some "community" choirs there are female singers who insist they can sing the tenor part, but when they do it is obvious they are singing it an octave too high (or they sing some of the part in the correct octave but then jump up an octave to sing the lowest notes)... the male tenors do not like this, and I don't blame them!

Any further elucidation on this topic would be appreciated.

Kay

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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby choralia » 23 Nov 2008 18:04

I never received any music education, so what follows is just the result of my practical experience.

In some editions (e.g., Ricordi) one can find this notation for clefs:

clefs.gif
clefs.gif (17.64 KiB) Viewed 19159 times

I suppose that the strange signs attached to the clef of the tenor staff are equivalent to the "dangling 8".

About altos singing the tenor part at the tenor pitch, this is definitely possible in some cases. As an example, please note the famous "Ave Maria" by Claudio Monteverdi:

http://choralwiki.net/wiki/index.php/Ave_Maria_%28Claudio_Monteverdi%29

In the two SAT versions the tenor part is very "central", as it goes from F3 to D4. It is within the range of altos (quite low), and even within the range of basses (quite high). So, in principle, altos, tenors and basses may sing it. But then we have to take into account not only the pitch, but also the timbre (colour) of the voice. Any voice has a different timbre when singing in its low range with respect to the high range. The harmonic contents (or "overtones" in physics) significantly change. In this example from Monteverdi, if the tenor part were sung by a bass and by an alto at the same pitch, most listeners may have the impression that the alto sings at a lower pitch than the bass, because the voice timbre of the alto would be "low", while the one of the bass would be "high". In order to have similar timbres, the alto should sing one octave higher than the bass. So, from the listener's viewpoint (earpoint? :? ), the perception of the correct timbre may be more important than the perception of the pitch at the nominal octave. Conclusion: when re-arranging parts from male voice to female voice or vice versa, one octave of shift is pretty common so as to maintain approximately the same timber.

Max

nolinesbarred
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby nolinesbarred » 23 Nov 2008 20:39

Thanks Max. That "timbre" thing might explain why, when we have an alto singing the tenor part for some songs, it just sounds "wrong" even though the alto in question is quite comfortable within most of the tenor range. The difference in timbre is probably more noticeable because the other alto sings the same tenor part an octave higher! The particular song of which I'm thinking is "We be Soldiers Three" (Thomas Ravenscroft). I had some help finding this music from CPDL members in the New Members group a few weeks ago.

Your explanations and suggestions will be very helpful to us. I'm finding the conversation on this thread so interesting and look forward to more enlightenment and perhaps to hearing of other members' Octave Tenor Clef experiences.

CHGiffen
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby CHGiffen » 24 Nov 2008 16:41

My understanding is that the "Octave tenor clef" with the dangling 8 is a relatively late 20th century innovation(?) - possibly arising when computerized music engraving programs became the norm in music publishing? One only has to look at earlier 20th-century editions (eg. the T. Tertius Noble edition of Handel's (The) Messiah published by G. Schirmer in 1912) to see tenor parts written in the (treble) G-clef with no dangling 8, yet for which it is manifestly clear that the part is to be sung an octave lower. If anything, the ambitus (vocal range) should be the real clue - and in all instances I know of (for tenor parts), on should always sing parts down an ocatave when encountering the simple (no dangling 8) G-clef.

As to origins and "dumbing down", I have often wondered if the original culprits were those countless people trained originally or basically only in keyboard music, where it is virtually unheard of to see clefs other than the G-clef (treble) and F-clef (bass) - and C-clefs (no matter which line the C is on) were largely unknown except to violists, trombonists, and a few other instrumentalists. Many an accompanist/choir director would have found it quite a challenge to play a tenor part written in the tenor C-clef or an alto part written in the viola C-clef! Furthermore, vocal training from the late 19th through the mid 20th century simply placed almost no emphasis on early music where one would tend to encounter other clefs, and few composers from the Romantic era on seem to have bothered to compose vocal music with tenor parts in C-clefs. The addition of the "dangling 8" or other indication (as in the Ricordi editions cited above and in other editions) seems to be, if anything, at least a nod towards specificity (although perhaps not exactly a "wising up" to counteract any "dumbing down"). :wink:

Heaven forbid someone might find a Ph.D. dissertation topic here. :lol:

Chuck
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nolinesbarred
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby nolinesbarred » 24 Nov 2008 21:25

Curiouser and curiouser.

How marvellous for you, Chuck, to have sung with Zephyrus. I shall investigate their site further and cogitate on your post after my first cup of tea for the day.

K

vaarky
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby vaarky » 27 Nov 2008 03:50

Are two G-clef markings right next to one another a different way to indicate the equivalent of the dangling 8?

When we sight-sing something with old-style clefs or with significant transposition, it's always interesting to me to note what proportion of my singing is actually by interval, and what proportion is by how the vocal placement feels (esp. for large leaps). It's esp. brutal for people with perfect or approximate pitch. And if you add to that having a female alto transpose down an octave due to a dangling 8 in addition to transposing keys by a couple of steps, you can really see someone's brain melt.

I agree that having someone sing with the wrong timbre can really mess with the sound of a piece. I usually prefer women singing alto over having a male sing countertenor, even some professionals. Most male countertenors sound too sinus-y or piercing or forced to me. BTW, I am sorry to hear that Chanticleer's sopranist Michael Match left the ensemble--he had the loveliest male soprano sound I've heard.

anaigeon
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby anaigeon » 27 Nov 2008 16:47

Are two G-clef markings right next to one another a different way to indicate the equivalent of the dangling 8?

Yes indeed, this is the notation used, for instance, in Gauldin's book on sixteenth century counterpoint.
(probably for typographical reasons)

BTW, I personnally hate this G cle an octave down, my brain just cant visualize the crossing involved with other parts.
I write all my tenors in C cle, which, as a sugar, also gives the good range for this voice.

luis henriques
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Re: Octave Tenor Clef

Postby luis henriques » 12 Dec 2008 01:57

I'm not very familiar with transcribing music. As a tenor, I've red in almost every possible ways! F-clef, G-clef (8) and even C-clef. The main purpose, especially on polyphony, behind the use of these clefs is that all the voices stay in the pentagram (not using any lines outside the stave), so i'ts quite natural for me to read in an octave G-clef. When analysing the score it begins to complicate a bit, but one gets used to it. In modern edition there are many views: for e.g. Bach's late 19th-century editon use C-clefs. My teacher uses another different way: Superius (G-clef), Altus (G-clef octave), Tenor (G-clef octave) and Bassus (F-clef).
Hope to have been of any help.
Greetings,
L.H.
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