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Harp Pedal Help!

Carlly Clabby

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I'm trying to figure out the harp pedal tuning for my newest concert band piece. Your help will be greatly appreciated.


C.L. Winston

Nibiru - Harp.pdf

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Well, I'm not harpist, but I always specify the pedals from the beginning, for instance, the first gliss is with the Ab already ?

you can use these kind of diagrams:


or simply write the notes like: D, C, Bb E, F#, G, Ab

I think in m.78 you also need to specify what to move, if E to Eb, then in m.118 looks you F is not # anymore ?

but looks perfectly playable for me.


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I shall offer a differing opinion, one of technical competency, since no one on this forum seems to understand how harps actually work...

You have no markings in your score for the glisses. You have to indicate what the notes are or the type of scale. Your very first gliss would be impossible to have the F# and F natural. You can only have one accidental variation on each note letter name.

Your bisbiglando effect, while cool, is not playable. Bisbiglandos only work if the alternating notes are on different strings. Since Harp strings are so long (most of them) and resonate for a long time, the fingers can't continuously pluck then effectively. That's why good bisbiglandos are really just tremolos between strings of the same pitch tuned enharmonically. So, for your Bb, the harpist would tune the A strings to A# and tremolo between those two strings. The G has no such enharmonic variation. You'll either have to accept the lack of G or pick another note. Its really just a flaw in the very advanced technology of the harp. We gotta deal with that as composers.

Throughout you *MUST* specify tunings for your glissandos. Be it something as simple as "D Major scale" or a pedal diagram.

M 146-148 are not helpful with D natural and Db in succession. Make it a C#, even if it is enharmonically incorrect. That will make it be four different strings and thus far easier to play. A lot of your slurs, especially in melodies won't be followed simply by the nature of harp music. Think of it like keyboard percussion which really has no method of "sluring" notes.

M. 83 and 88 should simply have written: pres de la table or at the fingerboard. You don't have to be *so* explicit as quasi guitara. BTW, mixing Italian and English in the same expression is not good policy. Same applies for your bisbilango effect. All you need to write is "bisbiglando" and perhaps "leggiero" if you really want to, but it will be light no matter what simply by virtue of the effect.

One more thing, if you really don't know what you're doing with harp tunings, don't bother writing in pedal markings and risk them being wrong. The harpist will go and write his/her own markings anyway because he/she will have a preference as to where to change pedals. Its just like a Timpanist will chose when to retune his timpani. Just make sure there's time for them to change tuning. Note, though, this is not the same as notating what notes you want. That's why I said above you need to indicate the type of scale etc. You need not show the tuning of the instrument but you need to show the notes required in order to get the tuning.

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