Pedal marking question

May 20, 2012

With reference to the score for "Fantasia" for Harp in C Minor (Opus 35)
( I transcribed this directly from the original manuscript so I kept all the original pedal markings. As you will see on the transcription, there are pedal markings. Ab, C#, etc... There is one in particular that has really got me confused. There is repeated use of the "H♮" (e.g., see measure 54). How can this be? What is it for? Thanks!


"H" is used in the German musical alphabet to signify B (which I only know because I'm German-American ^_^). As far as I know, it's only used for B and not any other position, confusing as that is. You can see it in measures 73-77, where H is used for the pedal changing to natural to flat and then back to natural for a time, and then B is used to signify the change to flat and back to natural.

As for whether H is used for B flat, natural, or sharp, I would have to ask my teacher. This score seems to use it for B-natural, but I'm not completely sure.

...I also find it confusing. But if you just mentally replace H with B, it should be easier to read.

Wow! That's confusing but I understand. On a related topic, how much time is required for pedal switching that would affect what a harpist could reasonable accomplish in a given measure? Thanks!
That's...actually a very complicated question to answer. It depends heavily on the song's tempo and key signature and which pedals are being changed (and of course on the ability of the harpist).

Well, here's the general layout of the pedals (if you don't already know): D C B (left foot) E F G A (right foot). So if I was setting the harp for D major, I could depress the C and F pedals simultaneously to change those to sharp. The same thing applies with all other pedals, so if you need to change accidentals at the same time, like at the beginning of a gliss, it's better if they're on different sides of the harp. Changing from sharp to flat and vice versa (two slots in the base of the harp) also takes more time than to move just one.

Beyond that, it's somewhat difficult to put into words. I'd say as a rough estimate, if you intend to compose/arrange something, it would be better to have no more than one/two pedal changes per measure. But that's not all the harp is capable of. It's also usual to set a pedal before the actual accidental is played, if no other notes with that tone will come between it. For example, if I were playing an A natural in the key of Eb at some point, I could set the A pedal anytime after the last A flat before the natural was played in the music. This allows for some extra freedom.

I can only point you to a few pieces (available on IMSLP) that I know of which have quite a few pedal changes and hope that they'll help you somewhat in getting a feel for what to include:
Prelude in C–J.S. Bach (used in the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria)
La Source–Alphonse Hasselmans
Divertissiments–Andres Caplet
Clair de Lune by Debussy (Suite Bergamesque) is also possible, though I don't think that edition is available online.


That explains alot! I understand why the pedal changes preceed (sometimes a whole measure) the actual accidental or key change.

h is b and B is B flat. Bachs name is thus Bb a, C, B .everyon e in musical history has used this .Bach himself many times. the serialists Schonberg,Webern,and Berg continuing to Boulez and beyond use this intervallic pattern constantly. It is one of the most patterns in all of music !

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