1. A standard size of sheet music that was derived from standard printing practices of the 19th century. Typically, printers would start with a "sheet" of paper that was about the size of an unfolded newspaper (today that is about 25 inches by 30 inches). Folding the paper in half would result in four pages for a "folio" size (about 25 inches by 15 inches). A second fold would create eight pages for a "quarto" size (about 12 1/2 inches by 15 inches). A third fold creates the octavo size (about 12 1/2 inches by 7 1/2 inches). When the paper is trimmed, the octavo size is about 7 inches by 10 3/4 inches. This is sometimes abbreviated as 8vo (pronounced "eight-v-o") or 8°.
2. A generic term for sheet music (typically in the form of a booklet) containing a short choral work. This term comes from the fact that most most popular and liturgical choral works are printed on the octavo size paper (about 7 inches by 10 3/4 inches). This sheet music generally contains all of the vocal parts with the piano accompaniment. In the case of a cappella music or music that is accompanied by other ensembles where piano accompaniment is not needed, the octavo will often include the the piano accompaniment for rehearsal purposes.
Last Updated: 2013-07-02 15:03:29