Pedal techniques

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    There’s a good amount of discussion and elaboration on how the fingers/wrists position should work, with different philosophies between different methods.

    Now, I am wondering why none of the methods really explain how pedaling should be done. I’m sure if improper hand positions could lead to injury, improper feet positions could also lead to chronik injuries…

    So do you pedal heels down? heels up?
    Do you use primarily the tip of the foot? ball of the foot? ball of the foot but more towards the big toe part?
    Do you slant your foot to notch the pedals or just flat by friction of the sole to the pedal?
    Do you use weight from the whole foot to press down a pedal (especially if they are tight)? Do you use more calf muscles or tigh muscles? or just around the ankles?

    How about relaxation of the toes during pedaling, do you cramp up all your toes while pedaling?
    Do you move between pedals with the heel on the floor? or do you lift them up when changing pedals?
    When not changing pedals, do you rest your feet on the pedals (maybe the next ones to be changed)? or on the last changed pedals?
    Do you pedal on the A with a straight knee, or bent?
    When releasing pedals, do you unnotch during the motion? or prepare the release by unnotching in advance?

    Playing the harp barefoot, with flipflops, sneakers, dress shoes, boots, wide sole boots (never tried with heels yet, dont have this kind of shoes) – I find the different feel and precision kinda… interesting. Sometimes, engaging different muscle groups of the legs to execute the pedal changes…


    Well, I was definitly taught how to pedal, so I don’t think that it isn’t part of technique, just something that many teachers seem to neglect. But there is also a lot of room with pedeling that has to do with a person’s build, and the music they play for individuals to adjust what they do to accomodate them.

    To address your specific questions:

    Always heel down.

    Depends on the harp. My pedal harp is a small one with short pedals so I have to pedal more to the toes. Ideally I position so the end of the pedal is at the ball of my foot.

    I slant my foot slightly so that the pedals will naturally shift into position in the notch when engaging or start to move out of the notch when disengaging, but not so much that it is uncontrolled because if you accidental slam the pedal into the notch it can make a noise that the harp can amplify into an unplesant sound.

    I use the ankle to push down the front of the foot while the heel remains on the ground.

    I keep toes relaxed. It is one of the reasons I never play without shoes on. Peddling barefoot will naturally make your feet want to clench up around the pedal.

    If I need to reposition my feet to engage or disengage a pedal I lift the heel just slightly off the floor and move the foot so as not to make any noise scraping my heel on the floor. When possible I keep the heel stationary and just pivot the foot.

    I try not to rest my foot on a pedal unless actively engaging or disengaging a pedal. However there are times when it is necessary when a quick engaging and disengaging of a pedal is necessary. This can be notated in the pedal markings in the music. Often when fast peddling is necessary you don’t even slide the pedal into the notch. Just press it down and hold it with the foot while playing the note, and then let it up immediately afterwards (dampening first of course if a sounded pitch bend isn’t desired).

    I position the harp so that I have my knee just slightly bent when my foot is on the A pedal.

    I unnotch at the last moment unless there is some specific reason to do it ahead of time. I work under the premise that it is almost always best for all aspects of pedaling to be done at the last possible moment that can be reasonably acomplished.

    I am a strong advocate of people playing the harp with shoes on at all times.

    Less chance of injury.

    Creates less tension in the feet.

    The feel of playing with shoes on is completely different than playing barefoot. Unless you are sure that you will always be able to perform without shoes on you really need to get used to playing with shoes, which means that all, or at least the significant majority, of your practice time should be done with shoes on. A person who practices without shoes, even if they can pedal brilliantly with bare feet, can easily become clumsy and slow when they try to play with shoes. It is relatively easy to go from playing with shoes to without, but very hard for most people to go from barefoot to shoes. So practice with shoes on so you are used to it.


    Two cents worth. I think it depends on what each person is comfortable with, what kind of shoes they wear, etc. I confess I am a lifelong barefoot practicer. I didn’t know there was a pedal technique, and I’ve played for 47 years. To me, direction is important: going from flats to naturals or naturals to sharps, I start at the outside and go in…..going from sharps to naturals or naturals to flats, I start at the inside and go out… because it eliminates unnecessary motion. When there is a mixture of both, I am pragmatic…whatever works easiest and/or fastest with the least amount of motion. I set pedals as far in advance as possible…for instance, if I have a harp part in Eb but my first A is natural, and the first D I will be playing is D#, I start with my pedals in Bb major with the D in sharp position. When there are measures of rest, I reset pedals then…not waiting until the last second. Like I say, I think everyone has his/her own ways of dealing with the harp.


    Strangely, I have never been able to pedal with bare feet….I found it really difficult.

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