Notating pedal changes

Every harpist has his/her own preferred system of notating pedals in the score. Some use the French pitch names: Do, Ré, Mi, Fa… and others use the pitch names: C,D,E, F. It should be remembered that the exact place where the pedal change is notated is important and personal to each harpist. A composer cannot possibly anticipate exactly where the harpist will change a pedal. Even if the composer is a harpist, another harpist might write the pedals differently.

Therefore, if pedal changes are included in the score, it is best to notate them above or below the two staves. In this way the space between the staves is free for the harpist to re-write the pedals in his/her personal way. 

Complete pedal settings should be given at the beginning of a piece, movement or new section, and always before a glissando. 

Complete pedal settings can be given with a pedal diagram or by writing each pitch letter with the relevant accidental. The order of the pitches should reflect the layout of the pedals. They can be written in one line or in two lines above each other, in the latter case most harpists prefer to see the right foot pedal pitches above the left.

D, C♯, B, E, F♯, G♯, A


E, F♯, G♯, A

D, C♯, B

Complete pedal settings should always be placed above or below the two staves. 

Individual pedal changes are indicated by giving the pitch letter and its new accidental.  For example if the C pedal changes from the natural position to the sharp position the correct pedal marking is C♯. [Gould2011]Individual pedal settings should be indicated above or below the two staves, NEVER in the middle of the two staves (see above).

A composer must work out the pedal settings and keep track of pedal movements while composing. This will make him/her aware of the technical demands being placed on the player. [Gould2011]

However, composers don't need to notate every pedal change in the score. They can, for example, choose to use pedal diagrams to indicate the position of the pedals at regular intervals. Composers can also choose to omit all pedal indications. Although it is advisable for the composer to demonstrate that the pedals have been thought of, harpists are used to writing their own pedals in the score and sometimes no pedal markings from the composer are preferable to sporadic and erroneous ones.