Which is the proper format to use on sheet music for pedal sustain?

• Feb 9, 2021 - 19:07

Boy, I am sorry I am asking lots of questions. As a retired scientist just learning to use MuseScore and to learn sheet music, I am too full of questions.

Anyway, on piano sheet music, if you have a set of note runs in the left hand for which you want to instruct the player to hold down the sustain pedal, it appears you can use two different symbols. One is the Ped & * notation, and one is the straight line notation. See this example:
Pedal Question.jpg

In both cases, I keep having to repeat the pedal command, measure after measure. Somehow, I don't think either technique is correct. Is it? Is one of these the better notation for the song, or is there a third note I can enter, to tell the player to hold down the sustain pedal for the bases notes in a measure, then release it, then hold it down again for the next measure? My song is 5 pages and it seems too repetitive.

Thanks in advance for your help.


The Ped & * is the older style, I don't like it personally but some do. The ____/_____ is less distracting to me and also more precise. but you need to make the angle lin up - the ending "/" of one line should be on the same note as the starting "\" of the next. So instead of selecting a measure only, you need to include the first note of the next measure in your selection. Assuming you really want to change pedal every measure uniformly like this, it normally wouldbn't be appropriate since the chord can and does change mid-measure.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Forgive my ignorance. I really am a complete novice regarding music theory and notation.
Are you saying this (see below) is a better way to indicate to a player that he/she should hold the sustain pedal down for each measure, one by one? Screenshot 2021-02-09 145435.png

If so, I am confused. I assume the left hand would start an 8 beat note run with each new measure. If so, would not the pedal need to be released at the end of a measure? If so, why would the notation not end the line at the end of the measure, rather than carry it forward to the 1st note of the next measure?

In reply to by fsgregs

That's close, but they should line up exactly - no little gaps between the / and . And this happens automatically if you do the selections as I've explained. IIf you attach your actual score rather than just a picture, we can assist better.

The norm when playing piano in music like this is the pedal mostly stays down, but does a quick release - up and back down in one motion - on each chord change. So the pedal stays down all the way until the first note of the new chord. Usually you play the chord but as your fingers go down, the foot goes up, then comes immediately back down This eliminates gaps between the chords.

But, the chord changes more than every measure in this example. For example, the third full measure starts with an Eb triad but then has a fourth that is dissonant against the third and one might typically change pedal there and again on 4. Or not, this is subjective - but almost certainly in the next measure you'd change for the Bb7. So you'd normally show a pedal change there.

Often, pedal is provided by the player, not the composer, as most players have their own ideas about how to do it and a lot of composers don't have a clear sense of this. So leaving it out is often wise. But you might include it anyhow for the sake of playback, then make it invisible.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc. i will try it out. I need to do this because I am relying exclusively on the computer synthesizer to play back my compositions. I can't speed read music on my own, so I cannot play my own compositions on a piano. I need the synth to do all the playing, so I need to tell it how and when to sustain the pedal.

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