Update — September 21, 2018: Readers of this post might also be interested in a new font that offers an alternative method of creating harp diagrams that is consistent in any notation software.
The harp has seven pedals, each one corresponding to a note name and capable of three positions corresponding to flat, natural, and sharp. Harpists use a diagram to indicate the positions of the pedals.
The order of the pedal marks from left to right corresponds to the order of the pedals on the harp: D, C, B, E, F, G, A, with a separator between the B and E to distinguish among the pedals operated by the left and right feet.
From top to bottom, the position of the marks correspond to the position of the pedal:
- Pedal all the way up – all pitches for that note name down a half step (flat)
- Centered pedal (one notch down) – the pitches for that note are tuned to the letter name (natural)
- Lowered pedal (two notches down) – all the pitches for that note name up a half step (sharp)
Typically, it is best left to the harpist to write in their own diagrams, but there are times when you’ll want to notate them directly into your score, like when specifying the pitches on a glissando. Here’s how to do that in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore.
Incidentally, if this very cursory overview of harp notation and mechanisms has piqued your interest, two excellent resources for further reading are the pocket-size Essential Dictionary of Orchestration and Samuel Adler’s comprehensive The Study of Orchestration.
The quickest way to enter a harp diagram in Sibelius is to use Bob Zawalich’s plug-in Harp Diagram from Tuning. If you’re using Sibelius 7 or higher, you can install it from the Harp category in File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins.
Simply select in your score where you’d like to place the diagram, and run the plug-in. Type in your pitches according to the directions. The plug-in offers many alternative output formats; choose Harp Pedal Diagram for the traditional diagram:
Click OK and the diagram will appear in your score:
There are a number of other very useful harp plug-ins for Sibelius that Bob has thoroughly reviewed elsewhere on this blog.
It’s not quite so user-friendly to place harp diagrams in Finale, but you can achieve similar results by following these steps.
First, you’ll want to set up a new category for harp diagrams. Create a new expression category in Document > Category Designer… . Choose Expressive Text from the left-hand menu and click Duplicate…
Name your category Harp or something similar.
Click OK to return to the Category Designer. Click Music Font and choose Engraver Text T. (Engraver Text H and Engraver Text NCS also work for this purpose.) Set the point size to be around 12 points, and click OK.
Now that the category is created, you won’t have to do that again in your document.
Now, create your diagram by switching to the Expression Tool and double-clicking where you want it to appear. Choose the Harp category and click Create Harp…
It’s not necessary, but in the Description field, you might type out the notes of the diagram to remind yourself of the tuning. This won’t have any effect on the expression itself, however.
In the main Text area, be sure that Use Harp Category Fonts is checked, and choose Music Font from the Font drop-down menu.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky: You have to know which keystrokes refer to which character:
- O = pedal up
- Shift+O = pedal centered
- P = pedal down
- Shift+P = separator
So, to type the diagram D C# Bb | E F# G A, you would type: OpoPOpOO. Don’t question it, just accept it!
Click OK, then Assign to place the expression into your score:
The good news is, to create additional diagrams, you can select your existing diagram and duplicate it, changing only the pedals necessary, which will go a lot quicker.
My good friend Robert Puff has some additional helpful information in a blog post he wrote in 2011.
It should be noted that the Finale reference offers another way of placing diagrams using the Shape Designer. I try to avoid the Shape Designer as much as I avoid Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but I suppose both can be fun if you get in the right mindset.
To place harp diagrams in MuseScore 2, you’ll need the Harp Pedal Diagram plug-in. Download the plug-in and install it by following the standard installation instructions. You’ll also need to install the Harpfont font, included in the download.
Once you’ve installed the plug-in, start MuseScore and enable the plug-in by following the instructions.
Select in your score where you’d like to place the diagram, and run the plugin from Plugins > Harp Pedal Diagram. It has an interactive interface — select the radio buttons and watch your diagram update as you like:
Click OK to place the diagram in your score.