Finale – Type Harp pedal markings as text into your score

Q: “In Finale, I have notated the starting and ending notes of a gliss which is in C minor. The full version of TGTOOLS has the Harp Pedaling… 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 the plugin to work. Can I manually type in the harp pedal marking for C minor as text into Finale?”

A: Yes. 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 Expressive 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?

With the Expression Tool selected, double click on the staff, choose Expressive Text from the column on the left, and click the Create Expressive Text… button at the bottom of the dialog. For individual pedal changes, if there is a flat associated with that string name, type CNTRL-SHIFT-F (CMND-SHIFT-F on Mac). If there is a sharp associated with that string name, type CNTRL-SHIFT-S (CMND-SHIFT-S on Mac). Naturals, can be typed in as CNTRL-SHIFT-N (CMND-SHIFT-N on Mac).

You can create the initial tuning at the start of the piece by typing the string of text in the DCBEFGA order, with the appropriate flats and sharps, separated by commas. e.g. you can indicate a complete change of key with this method, or just indicate a single pedal mark for one note name.

Expressive text goes under the staff, and so it works well for this type of text harp pedaling. However, you probably don’t want your harp pedal markings to be Italics. You can uncheck the “Use Expressive Text Category Fonts” checkbox and choose any font and size you like. I tend to use bold non-italics for this type of markup.



Another way to notate Harp pedal changes in Finale is with Harp Pedalgram symbols. The “Engraver Text NCS”, “Engraver Text T” and “Engraver Text H” fonts that come with Finale allow you to type the harp pedalgram characters directly into Finale.

Using one of the Engraver Text fonts, the characters areo” for flat, “O” for natural and “p” for sharp (those are small case or capital letters, not numbers).

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 “P”. 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.

If you were to type in the sequence in Times New Roman you would get something like this:

In Engraver Text T, 18pt, it looks like this:


To indicate A Major, which is three sharps (C#, F#, G# from left to right in our DCBEFGA pedal sequence), you would type in the sequence opOPOppO :

To indicate C minor (three flats: Bb, Eb, Ab from left to right in our pedal sequence), you would type the sequence OOoPoOOo :

… and so forth.

Pedalgrams are always displayed as a complete set, typically at the start of a piece. Pedalgrams also can appear at the start of key changes, followed by any individual string tunings (pedal changes).

Some additional information can be found in the Finale manual here.

While o, O, p and P 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 in Finale like an expert. Simple!

9 Replies to “Finale – Type Harp pedal markings as text into your score”

  1. Robert, thank you so much. I’m a harpist and you have no idea just how much this “little” piece of information help. I wish I could show you the transcriptions I’ve finished today right after I found this advice from you. Thanks!

  2. Hi, Robert,

    thank you so much for you wonderful tipps!
    Just a question: are you sure, the A major example is correct? It seems there is a b flat…

    All the best, looking forward to more from you!

    1. Hi Robert – good eye! Yes, that Db is enharmonic with C#. For certain situations in harp music, it is common practice to tune two sets of strings to the same pitch enharmonically.


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