I am learning the proper way to notate a pedal sustain in music notation, but am not sure about how to mark a transition from one line of music to another. In this hypothetical only example ...

example of both pedal end and pedal continue and line end

... the song continues the pedal sustains from measures 4 to 5, and 9 to 10. Which is the proper notation for the pedal sustain line: use a square bar at the end of measure 4 and pick things up again at measure 5, or carry over the sustain pedal line as in measure 9 to 10? Visually, choice 1 seems neater, but ...

  • Side note: I was surprised and dismayed to read in Behind Bars, which is a highly respected book on notation, that the “Ped. *” notation is preferred over the lines. Not to say you shouldn’t use the lines if you like them better. Feb 20, 2021 at 15:38
  • @ToddWilcox I'm all for it, but do they indicate why? The lines do seem more precise.
    – Aaron
    Feb 20, 2021 at 16:24
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox I wonder if it has to do with visual clutter. "Ped" followed by "*" is cleaner than a line extending across an entire section of a piece.
    – Aaron
    Feb 20, 2021 at 16:36
  • @Aaron - by the time phrase marks etc. have been added, it starts to look too busy. Most good players shouldn't need more than a guide anyway. Unless it's some really 'clever' stuff.
    – Tim
    Feb 20, 2021 at 16:40
  • @Aaron Yes if you think about it the lines have to be continued and aligned and connected to retain meaning but Ped * is just two symbols that can be more easily arranged at the engraving stage. I agree with Tim also that pedaling such as indicated in this question is better denoted by being explicit in the first few measures and then marking simile or something like that. “Continue pedaling each measure” would be another way. Or even just “pedal every downbeat” at the start of the score with no explicit marks. Even “with pedal” or “sostenuto” would be enough. Feb 20, 2021 at 19:26

4 Answers 4


They are played differently. With m4-5 there will be a clear audible gap and with m9-10 not. So I'd definitely go with m9-10.


The 9>10 seems more accurate, but any player who knows what he's doing will pedal properly anyhow, holding until the first note in the next bar and changing while that is held down. But pedalling those particular notes..?


In order to continue the pedal across the end of the line, leave a flat pedal line.1

Pedal continuation example

To release the pedal at the end of the line, use a vertical release line.2

Pedal release example

1 Stephen Heller, "The Avalanche", op. 45, no. 2, mm. 29-30b. Published in "Celebration Series: Piano Etudes, Level 4", 2015 edition, RCM Publishing, page 13.

2 Ibid., mm. 30-32a, page 12.

  • Unless "a" and "b" are part of a notation system I am not familiar with, how does Measure 30 appear one page before Measure 29 of the same piece?
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 21, 2021 at 16:32
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci In this piece, there are a first and second ending; they share measure numbers and are differentiated by "a" (first ending) and "b" (second ending). It's the first time I've ever seen that.
    – Aaron
    Feb 21, 2021 at 17:45

Do you even need to use any pedal here? The left hand part moves by step and is pretty low, so pedaling through any two consecutive notes would sound really muddy. And even if you pedal each note separately it could sound too heavy, plus there would probably not be enough time to allow the reverb to fade away, and then it would clash with the next note.

  • I think (hope) the dots were sort of random!
    – Tim
    Feb 20, 2021 at 16:09

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