In piano notation, how can I indicate for the player to lift his/her hand after playing a note that is being held with the pedal? My goal is to include choreographed movements within the score.

I've been advised to use laissez vibrer ties, but they get messy with other markings present in my score.

As of now, I have put the mallet lift sign over those notes (but I suspect it's 'legal' to do so):

Mallet lift sign

Have you come across more common ways of indicating this?

  • 1
    Do you mean lift the hand away from the keyboard after holding the note for its full duration, or lifting off the key soon after striking the key, possibly even before the normal duration of the note has completed? If the former, why are trying to indicate that? It seems like where one's hands are between playing the notes indicated should be up to the personal preference of the player. Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:34
  • Why would this need to be indicated? The performer would probably do this as part of the performance without prompting.
    – Tim
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:39
  • @ToddWilcox I'm trying to indicate that the hand lift off the key soon after striking the key (and holding it with the pedal).
    – Veo
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:41
  • @Tim In my case, the player could choose not to lift the hand, because it's not absolutely necessary. However, I'm also orchestrating the choreography of movements.
    – Veo
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:41
  • 1
    Like you want the musicians to be doing a sort of dance along with the playing? Interesting idea. Perhaps invent a system for choreography of motions and create an additional staff that would be lined up with the staff containing notes? Inventing notation and providing a guide to it at the beginning of the score has become not uncommon. Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:52

2 Answers 2


For something that specific (based on reading your comments) and extra-musical, just write that in plain English right into the score ("lift hands"). It sounds like you're trying to choreograph actual physical movements, which is beyond what is typically done in the score, and there is no sure way to communicate that through traditional musical notation.

Alternatives would be to use staccato, or a sforzando (if accent is required), or a short note value (1/16, 1/8, etc.), all pedaled, but there is no guarantee that the pianist will actually lift his/her hands off of the keyboard as you describe.


You want the keys pressed for a short time, so write a short note. You want the pedal to hold the note, so write a pedal line. If you want staccato impact, add a staccato dot.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Won't the pedalling obviate the staccato?
    – Tim
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 16:56
  • 1
    The length, yes. But there's more to staccato than how long the key's held down.
    – Laurence
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 19:50
  • @Tim That notation example covers a whole spectrum of different tonal effects, depending on the precise relative timing of the keyboard and pedal movements. Also, mechanical noises are an important constituent part of "piano tone" - a digital piano simulation that doesn't include the noise content doesn't sound very realistic.
    – user19146
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 0:32

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