Sibelius – How to type in Harp Pedal Markings As Text

Q: In Sibelius, I have notated the starting and ending notes of a gliss which is in C minor. I tried the Add Harp Pedal Diagrams plugin, but since I’m not displaying enough pitches at this point in the score to outline the C minor tonality, I can’t get it to work. I would just  like to manually type in a harp pedal marking for C minor as text into Sibelius. How can I do this?”

A: To indicate the pedal changes at the start of a piece or new section, there are two standard conventions:

The first method is to use Expression text, appearing in the order that the pedals appear on the harp, separated by commas. Each pedal name shows whether the string is flat, sharp or natural.

An easy way to remember the correct order of the harp pedals is the phrase
Did Captain Bligh Ever Fear God Almighty?”.

It is implied that the string names by themselves (e.g. without a flat or sharp suffix) indicate naturals. If all the notes are tuned natural (C major / A minor), the pedal indication would look like this:

D, C, B, E, F, G, A

Another arrangement of the text system is to indicate the pedals that the harpist operates with her right foot on the first line, then the pedals that are changed with the left foot on the next. e.g. right side pedals should always be on top of the left in this two line arrangement:

E, F, G, A
B, C, D

Note the order of the string names in this 2nd configuration.

My colleague Bill Holab explains: “The E-B pedals are close together, as are the F-C and G-D, and since the feet can do those tunings at the same time, the alignment helps the harpist.”

The two line version is also sometimes shown with a bracket at the left edge, connecting the two lines.

Simple. But what if there are accidentals?

As you type, if there is a sharp or flat associated with that note name, you can either select it from the Contextual menu (right click), or you can type the sharps or flats right into the line – CNTRL-9 is flat and CNTRL-8 is sharp (that’s CMND-9 for flat and CMND-8 for sharp on Mac.) One thing to watch out for in Sibelius – if you exit the text and then reenter it or try to enter the text out of order, the sharps and flats won’t work. Just remember you have to keep typing everything in order for the sharps and flats shortcuts to work.


Expression text goes under the staff, and so it works well for this type of text harp pedaling. I always uncheck Italics for harp pedal markings (Properties>Text in Sibelius 6 or Text Tab>Style>Italics in Sibelius 7). You can indicate a complete change of key with this method, or just indicate a single pedal mark for one note name.

Another way to notate Harp pedal changes in Sibelius is with Harp Pedalgram symbols. Sibelius comes with two Music Text fonts – Opus Text for a typeset look, and Inkpen 2 Text for a more handwritten look.

Both of these fonts have Harp Pedalgram characters built in. Using one of the Music Text fonts, the characters are “L” for flat, “M” for natural and “N” for sharp (those are capital letters using either the Opus Text or the Inkpen 2 Text fonts).

Harp Pedalgrams use another symbol as well, which is a divider that clearly shows the layout of the pedals on the harp. The text character for this divider is a capital “O”. The layout on the harp consists of 3 pedals that can be operated with the left foot, and four with the right; the divider appears between the third and fourth symbol to show this. So, to show the key of C major, we can use expression text to create the sequence of all naturals with the divider after the third pedal:

Now, in Sibelius 7’s Text Tab, you can change the Font to Opus Text Std (or Inkpen 2 Text) and the Style to Regular:

(you can change this in the Properties Palette>Text in Sibelius 6)

And, Presto:

To indicate A Major, which is three sharps (C#, F#, G# from left to right in our DCBEFGA pedal sequence), you would use Expression Text to type the sequence MNMOMNNM, then change the font to Opus Text:

To indicate C minor (three flats: Bb, Eb, Ab from left to right in our pedal sequence), you would type the sequence MMLOLMML, then change the font to Opus Text:

… and so forth.

Unlike the Note Name system, Pedalgrams are only displayed as a complete set. However, Pedalgrams frequently appear at the start of key changes, with individual Note Name pedal markings displaying the individual pedal names as they change.

While L, M, N and O may not seem related to the music at first, it’s actually a pretty easy system to learn, and with a little practice, you’ll be writing harp pedal indications like an expert. Simple!

Finally, if you need playback of harp glissandos in Sibelius, check out the Harp Gliss Plugin written by Ian Cugley.

originally posted 8/21/11

One Reply to “Sibelius – How to type in Harp Pedal Markings As Text”

  1. It’s great that you have posted this information…

    Of course (many) professional harpist prefer to do their own pedalings and don’t want composers to “help” by adding them, unless it’s the first tuning at the start of a movement, or a glissando.

    Just thought I’d mention it.

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