PEDAL MARKINGS

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    carl-swanson on #210413

    I would like to hear from anyone who has bought my Carl Fischer editions of either the Debussy Danses, or the Bochsa Revisited for pedal harp. Specifically, I want to know what you think of the pedal markings in those two editions? When they were being engraved, I insisted that the pedal markings be printed as large as one would write them in by hand. I also insisted that they be in bold face. I’m getting some flack now from the production staff there that say that what I insisted on is “not part of the Carl Fischer format.” Their format for pedal markings is 12 point font, which is about as big as the typeface used in a letter, and is microscopic for harp sheet music.

    So, what are your thoughts? Are they too big? Too dark? And what do you do when pedals are printed in the usual small font? Do you have to rewrite them larger? Circle them?

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #210414

    I would like to add something else. My rule in writing pedals is that they should be put wherever space permits: sometimes between the staves, and sometimes below the bass staff. Having a hard rule of using one space or the other exclusively is just unworkable. For those of you who have used these editions, were you bothered at all by the placement of the pedal markings? Thanks.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #211388

    Inconsistent placement of pedal markings is messy and very annoying. They should either be between the staves or below, one or the other, and be consistent. If between the staves, then you have to have extra room to allow for the dynamics and other expressive markings so it is not cluttered. But that separates the hands too much. The worst is when they’re above the system, which makes no sense to me at all, unless you’re playing lever harp.
    As for Carl Fischer, did you perhaps show them some previous publications they did for harp with better printing style?

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #211442

    Saul- My first choice is to put the pedals between the staves. But sometimes there just isn’t room. In that case, I’ll put them below the lower staff. I never put them above the upper staff. I don’t know what you are referring to concerning “better printing style.” I don’t believe they or anyone else for that matter has ever printed pedals larger than 12 point font(which is microscopic), and that is the problem. The production manager said to me that he had never seen pedals printed as large as I wanted them. I told him he was absolutely right, he had never seen that. But it’s time to print them the way harpists can use them.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #211505

    I’m sure you can find many examples looking through published music. Again, inconsistent placement is distracting, messy and in my eyes, unprofessional. Stick with one or the other. Point size varies with different fonts so you might look for a font where 12-point is more legible and suggest a font change instead of point-size change. Other harpists have published with Carl Fischer.

    Participant
    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #214504

    I’m with Carl on this one. I love bigger fonts for pedal markings, and I also prefer to put my pedals wherever there is room, as long as they’re not above the staff.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #214516

    Elizabeth,

    If you go to amazon.com, then type in Debussy Danses sacree et profane, my edition of the Danses comes up. If you then click on that picture, you can then click on the first page of the piece and see how the pedals were printed in that edition. I got a lot of flack from the production people at Carl Fischer because they said they had never seen pedals printed so large. They were used to printing them in tiny 12 point font. I told them, you’re right, you have never seen them printed this big. But that’s the way harpists write them in, and that’s the way they should be printed.

    I have taken a ruler and measured the size that many harpists write in their pedals. I’ve done this with maybe 12 or 14 different harpists, and they all write their pedals 3/16 of an inch tall. That is the standard size that everybody wants to see, and that’s the size I asked for in that publication. I also asked that it be printed in bold and everyone I’ve talked to says they love the way the pedals are printed in that edition.

    Member
    Janis Cortese on #214520

    Originally a pianist here, so I’m afraid I’m used to seeing anything foot-related go below both staves on both instruments.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 5 months ago by Janis Cortese.
    Participant
    carl-swanson on #214522

    Janis- I too played piano, as a lot of harpists have. But pedal markings for piano are so much simpler than pedal markings for harp. I think the problem I was having with the people at Carl Fischer was that they thought of harp music as being basically the same as piano music, with some slight additions. They just didn’t realize how important the pedal markings are. They probably don’t realize also how important the notation is. Pianists can easily read D# or E♭. It doesn’t make any difference to them. But for us, those are two different strings, and it’s possible the note can only be played one way(either D#, or E♭, but not both). Also, because pedal indications are so important, they have to be clear enough and large enough to easily see. If there are notes 4 or 5 ledger lines below the lower staff, then the pedals are going to be so far from the staves that it will be easy to miss them. On the other hand, there may be so much notation in or between the staves that there is just no room to cram them in. In many instances I tried both and then made a decision as to which was clearer.

    I’m preparing my next publication for Carl Fischer right now, which is the Ravel Introduction and Allegro. I’ve re-notated some passages to show clearly how the passage is played, which hand plays what, etc. I’m also including fingerings of the same passage by different(really great) harpists, like Renie, Grandjany, David Watkins, Phia Berghout, and Pierre Jamet. It’s interesting to see their various solutions to the same passage. The point here is that difficult harp music really needs to be carefully planned out, and notated the way the harpist is going to understand immediately how something is played.

    Participant
    Tacye on #214523

    I don’t want or need printed pedals to be quite as large as handwritten- printing is much neater than my handwriting!

    Member
    Janis Cortese on #214526

    “But pedal markings for piano are so much simpler than pedal markings for harp.”

    Total agreement here. 🙂 Also agreed on the business about enharmonics. One of the things I’m still struggling with when I arrange music for harp is whether to spell things “correctly” — putting the sharp 5 in place when you’re moving into the relative minor, for example — or spelling it as a flat 6 if it would make the pedaling easier to grasp. I’m only just beginning to bump up against it myself, as opposed you someone like yourself who has done this for a lot longer at a much higher level.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #214531

    Janis- I think it depends on what you are arranging. If it’s jazz or pop music, then my understanding is that the player basically keeps the pedals in the key that the piece is written in. Accidentals are moved when needed, and as soon as it’s over, that pedal goes back into the home key. So jazz and pop players are used to moving a lot of pedals on one beat, then moving them back again. So I think for them, chords need to be spelled correctly. For classical players, the pedals are carefully worked out in advance, and on a harmonically complicated piece, the pedals are never in a key. The classical players want to see what strings to put their fingers on. So if you are in the key of B♭ for example, and you have to play a note A#, then they want to see the note spelled A#.

    Participant
    Alison on #223655

    Apologies for belated reply, I would end up writing them between the staves however I prefer left over right so I would be very pleased to see English pedal markings underneath, as a guide. So long as the size doesn’t interfere with the vision on following system (staves) also okay smaller as they are a prompt there, I get fussy about their horizontal placing too so what you have done looks good. Time to reset Ceremony of Carols for the harp as the main instrument instead of the Piano.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #223685

    Alison- Thank you for your reply on this subject. The core problem in my mind is that most harpists, especially at an advanced level, have spent years playing pieces in which they themselves have written in the pedals. So for each of these harpists, the pedals follow their particular system: between the staves, below the lower staff, left above right, right above left, green ink, red ink, pencil, etc. etc. etc. The variations are endless, and always in the hand writing of the harpist. My feeling is that we all need to learn to read pedals where and how they are written or printed. Many rental parts for example have correct pedals hand written in, but often each harpist who uses the part rewrites them, just so they will look the way they are used to seeing them.

    I would suggest to ALL harpists that, as a learning exercise, you try using a part the way the pedals are written in, without changing anything. Just get used to reading other harpists pedal writing, provided of course that they are correct. I think that, in time, you will become more adept at reading any and all pedals, which will be to your benefit. Stated another way, reading pedals is just one more skill that you need to develop to be able to learn music quickly and accurately. Being able to read pedals wherever and however they are written will save you a lot of unnecessary work.

    Participant
    susan-koskelin on #223719

    Carl,
    I have not checked out your edition of the Debussy, but I do totally agree with you about the placement of pedals. I have just finished putting the pedal markings into a new four-part arrangement (all four harp parts) for an ensemble piece, and I had no choice but to put them inside the staves and below the staves. I also like my markings as large as possible, but there was no room for that.
    I am wondering if there is a standard for different countries as far as actually putting the pedal markings in. This piece had none! It took me more than two hours each to notate the markings in these harp parts. My personal feeling is that, even if the composer/arranger is not a harpist, they should hire a harpist to put in the markings before printing and offering the piece for sale. This was a very expensive piece, and I’m still grumpy about having to do all that work.

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