Problem with behavior of harp pedaling for lowest two harp strings

Dorico’s harp pedal feature behaves as if the very lowest C and D strings on the harp have pedals. This is not true. No concert grand pedal harp from any part of the world has discs/pins on these two strings. Harpists tune these lowest two strings to whichever accidentals needed before the piece, and unlike with a timpani, it is not possible to inconspicuously stand up and silently re-tune these strings in the middle of a movement.

It would be much more accurate to reality if Dorico behaved as follows:

First, when a composer does use the lowest strings, whatever accidental the lowest C or D string has in its first appearance becomes the string’s “state.” If the composer uses that same string again with a different accidental, this note appears in red and cannot be made un-red through adding a pedal. For instance, if the score uses lowest C-natural first and then lowest C-flat later, the C-flat appears in red and can’t be made un-red. Or if the lowest C-flat appears first and then lowest C-natural later, this time the C-natural is permanently red.

Second, the initial appearance of the lowest two strings should never be in red, no matter what the pedal setting is. These two strings are completely unaffected by the pedal setting, so however they first appear is how the harpist will tune them beforehand.

Despite orchestration manuals’ clear statements on the matter of the lowest two harp strings, it is amazing how many professional composers are unaware of these facts and write something involving lowest D, D-flat, and C, for instance, which is completely impossible. Or they write lowest C, C-sharp, and C, with a pedal change, when they should write lowest C, D-flat, and C with no pedal change. Or they write only one instance of one of these lowest two strings but include a completely unnecessary pedal change. I would like to see Dorico help future composers not continue to make these mistakes.

Just switched after using Sibelius for eleven years–I truly appreciate Dorico’s harp pedal feature and many thanks to the team for the careful thinking that went into this!

Dear amynam,
Welcome to the forum and thank you so much for your explanations. Despite having been very close to harpists, this is something I never learned befor. Hopefully the team will find some time to implement this behavior in the harp pedalling feature!

I never heard of this either, thanks for sharing this information!

… In fact, the high G used to be similarly affected, but harps with free-strung high G’s are getting to be quite rare, as far as I know. Feel free to contradict

Thanks for your feedback, amynam. We did consider this technical detail of the harp when we were implementing the harp pedaling features, but we didn’t actually end up implementing anything for this case. It would be quite difficult to figure out which is the first used pitch on each of those two lowest strings and subsequently mark any deviation from those pitches in red, but as a pragmatic first step we can omit those two strings from being coloured red, which might be better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Thanks for your replies!

Daniel—yes, I do think that omitting those two strings from being colored red would be a good first step, as doing so will avoid creating a part with potentially unnecessary pedal changes. While that won’t help composers know if they’ve written something “out of range” for the lowest two strings, neither does the feature’s current behavior. So I think this would be a great improvement!

Claude—yes, true about the high G. In my experience harps with the free-strung high G seem to be almost completely gone (at least in North America).

Of course, the ultimate solution would be if harps could just be manufactured with discs/pins for the lowest two strings. Probably outside the scope of Steinberg’s authority… :slight_smile: