When it comes to harp pedal diagrams, Elaine Gould says in her music notation reference Behind Bars, “Harpists themselves frequently use a diagram to indicate the pedal notches… It is best to leave such diagrams for players to write in, according to their own preferences.” This is usually sage advice, since the diagram can be confounding to the novice composer or orchestrator:
However, with a bit of study, a composer or orchestrator can make good use of these diagrams as a shorthand to communicate with the harpist. This can be most effective on glissandi, where space might be tight, and the pedal diagram is the most direct way to convey the notes. As Elaine Gould says, “this is faster to assimilate than pitch names.”
Entering these diagrams in some desktop scoring programs can be a chore, either requiring the use of a plug-in, as in Sibelius, or the use of a font with characters that are difficult to remember, as in Finale, which also required the composer to know the order of the notes on the harp diagram. (Dorico 3 added a dedicated tool to help create semantically rendered harp pedal diagrams.)
Composer and engraver Jawher Matmati saw an opportunity to improve this process for the user. He said:
I wanted to create a simple way for composers to correctly enter the harp diagram while thinking more musically; meaning if one wants a gliss gesture of an E major scale, he can simply write the scale in its correct order starting from E without referring to the actual order of the pedals. Other reasons include the possibility to use this font on Dorico, since harp diagrams are not yet natively included; the possibility to have full control over the size of the diagram on the score which the plug-ins don’t really offer; and lastly, the possibility to instantly correct any accidental without relaunching any plug-in.
The result of Jawher’s efforts is the HP Diagram font, available for $4.99 at Notation Central. When using this font, the user can think musically, without being concerned with the order of the pedals. In other words, in HP Diagram, you can type the pitches in any order, and the font will automatically display the pitches in the correct order: DCB|EFGA.
The font works very intuitively:
- Pitch names (and natural notes) are typed using either lower case or upper case letters, or by solfège note names (do, re, etc.).
- Sharps are indicated by either s or # and flats are indicated by either f or b so that the user can type accidentals thinking either textually or symbolically.
- The pedalboard is typed by P.
- All notes need to be followed by a comma or period.
In practice, using HP Diagram in Sibelius, I first created a text style with the following settings (18 pt. works well):
I then entered the diagrams as Expression text, and when I was finished, changed the text style to my newly-created Harp diagram style. As you can see, entering the notes in any order and using any of the variants produced correct results:
One would follow a similar process using HP Diagram in Musescore and Finale, using the standard ways of creating and applying text styles or categories in those programs. It can also be used in Dorico, should you not wish to make use of the built-in harp pedaling tool. If you work with two or more different notation programs regularly, this could be an easy way for you to create harp diagrams in each program without having to remember the idiosyncratic method used to by each one.
For German users, Jawher created a similar font called HP Diagram German that uses the note names common in that language, such as “H” instead of “B”, “B” instead of “Bb”, and “Es” instead of “Eb”, for instance.
The HP Diagram font is available for just $4.99 at Notation Central and easy-to-read documentation is included with the font.
Jawher’s talents don’t just extend to music fonts. He’s also created a beautiful text typeface called Roman Ionic, also available at Notation Central.
“Roman Ionic,” Jawher says, “is a unique revival of a typeface that was once popular and used in many late 19th century and early 20th century music publishing houses, such as Durand. It displays a happy marriage between the beautiful features of the Clarendon type and the legibility of the Scotch roman class and is thus aimed to work for titling and body text.”
At the moment, only a regular variant is available, but other variants such as italic and bold are planned.