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The logic behind pedal order?

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  • #87051
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I am unsure whether this has been covered earlier in this forum or not, but I am curious about the reasoning behind the arrangement of the pedals. Is there a benefit to having them arranged DCB/EFGA, or was that just an arbitrary decision made by Erard? It seems alot simpler to have just used ABCDEFG or some similar order, rather than have that reversal between the feet.

    #87052
    tony-morosco
    Member

    I don’t “know” for a fact why, but I always assumed the same. The way they are arranged with each fifth on alternating sides makes sense when you are modulating through the keys.

    Having them simply in order doesn’t necessarily make it easier to pedal since the keys change by fifths.

    #87053
    barbara-low
    Participant

    I don’t know the real reason why either, but it makes sense that as you go through the circle of 5ths, either way, you’re alternating feet except between the A & E pedals.

    #87054
    vince-pierce
    Participant

    It’s kind of similar to the design of the computer/typewriter keyboard, I think, with the QWERTY system. The idea with the computer keyboard is to keep frequently-used keys such as e, s, a, and…well, other letters we use a lot in English apart from each other to facilitate typing faster. The circle-of-fifths makes sense, too, and the fact the E and A are on the same side is a matter of an odd number of pedals divided between two sides of the harp. I think if they were in scale order it would actually be more confusing.At least for me it would be.

    On a related note, when executing several pedal changes during rests, I find that I usually start on the inside with B/E, then move outward in pairs (with A by itself, obviously), even when I’m not moving every pedal. I like starting in and working my way out so I can check all the pedals and distinguish them from each other, which I have a hard time doing when I only check the pedals I’m moving. And when you have a good amount of time to move several pedals (say, from the key of D-flat major to C major), would you move the pedals concurrently in pairs, or individually? I think everyone probably has their own idiosyncracies when the music doesn’t dictate the pedal changes. If I have six measures to execute the aforementioned key change, I would do this: B natural, E natural, check C, check F, D natural, G natural, A natural, not moving them in pairs. Does this make sense at all?

    Sorry for the very long post…I was just curious. Maybe I should hire a pedal assistant for when I play harder repertoire? haha 🙂

    #87055
    unknown-user
    Participant

    That makes since. I too like to check my pedals once in a while in that outward pattern, especially at rehearsal signs in orchestra music where I’ve noted the correct pedal order. It’s so easy to lose track in that stuff. Oh well

    Hmm.. pedal assistant.. Perhaps Camac should restart their project

    #87056
    barbara-brundage
    Participant

    > I find that I usually start on the inside with B/E, then move outward in pairs

    Hi, Vince. FWIW, I was always told you should go the other way because you’re less likely accidentally knock a pedal out of its slot as you pass it when you’re working outside in, whereas if you’re in a hurry it’s more possible for that to happen if you work from the center out.

    #87057
    mary-schafer
    Participant

    Vince wrote:

    And when you have a good amount of time to move several pedals (say, from the key of D-flat major to C major), would you move the pedals concurrently in pairs, or individually? I think everyone probably has their own idiosyncracies when the music doesn’t dictate the pedal changes. If I have six measures to execute the aforementioned key change, I would do this: B natural, E natural, check C, check F, D natural, G natural, A natural, not moving them in pairs. Does this make sense at all?

    Hi Vince,

    I almost always move pedals in pairs.

    #87058
    vince-pierce
    Participant

    Great advice, Barbara and Mary. I actually had a ‘coaching’ on some orchestra music Saturday, and I was told to move pedals in pairs, but not in any certain order (as in inward or outward). However, before rehearsal this evening, when I marked all my pedal changes and highlighted them (like a good harpist), I notated them so that I would remember to start from the outside and move inward. It really is helpful, and it’s easier to feel my way around the pedals and distinguish them from each other that way.

    I also discovered that I move different pairs depending on what direction a given pedal is going – I don’t like to sharp one and natural(ize?) another at the same time, because I’m afraid I’ll sharp both or otherwise be confused. But I usually move A and D together, then G and C. I move F by itself, as it tends to be the odd one out. I move B and E together, too. It’s amazing what a difference a logical pedal process makes – when I practice, I have all sorts of time and no one watching, so I’m checking them over and over, but in rehearsal, and with as nervous as I was, following a pattern means I have the right pedals whether I know it or not! What a relief…now I have to go practice the 10 pieces I have to play…agh!

    #87059
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Vince- The advice given here has been very good and I agree with the bulk of it. I would like to add that complicated pedaling has to be practiced just like complicated musical passages. For very difficult pedaling we have to develope muscle memory too, and I often suggest to students that they practice those pedal passages without playing the music. Just count the beats and move the pedals. Make sure you are not moving your feet inefficiently. In other words, you may for example be used to resting your right foot on the A pedal when there are no pedals to move. But you may have a passage where you have to move G and then a measure later the E pedal. Don’t go to A in between. Practice going to the next pedal in the piece, even if it’s a few measures away. By practicing the pedals without playing you become more aware of how your feet have to move and you can concentrate on breaking inefficient habits. Another good habit to have is to study the music away from the harp. This gives you a chance to look at the whole page and see where the pedal changes are. It’s awful to be performing a piece from memory and not know where the next pedal change is and which pedal gets moved. You’re totally dependent on muscle memory. But if you study the music away from the harp, you can suddenly see for example that there are no pedal changes at all until the 4th line and then it’s only a B flat. Or you can see, and memorize that all of the pedal changes on page 2 are just the A and the B going back and forth between flat and natural. You normally don’t see these things when you memorize at the instrument.

    #87060
    unknown-user
    Participant

    For complicated pedalling also try saying the names of the pedal changes aloud while practising slowly (B natural, C sharp etc.). This is not only a good way to perfect the pedalling but also reduces your dependency on muscle memory, which I have found can be very dangerous!

    I also find that resting you feet on the ground(ie. not on the pedals)

    #87061
    brook-boddie
    Participant

    Here’s another question to throw in a kink to this discussion:

    #87062
    catherine-rogers
    Participant

    It is certainly acceptable when necessary. It’s easier for larger feet than small ones; not too difficult in flat soled shoes but almost impossible in high heels! If it’s easy for you, I’m envious.

    #87063
    brook-boddie
    Participant

    Trust me, Catherine, I’d much rather have smaller feet and not be able to do this!

    #87064
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    There’s a long history of moving two pedals at the same time with one foot. In the next issue of the Harp Journal I have an article coming out about that killer pedal passage in Debussy’s Danses. In the printed version, Renie has E and G moving on the same beat from flat to natural. What I found out recently, and the inspiration for the article, is that she found that she could move both pedals in one movement wearing a shoe that was in fashion at the time. It had a thick high heal and a blunt toe and this allowed her to move those pedals without touching the F. I’m not giving too much away here because there is a lot more in the article. Much more recently, I understand that Park Stickney sometimes folds one pedal up and then moves the two on either side with one motion. The bottome line is: WHATEVER WORKS!

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