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So in various sections of a piece I want the pianist to lift the pedal slower than usual, achieving an interesting effects as the harmonics fade. In some areas the pedal lift might be slower or faster, and so it would seem that just writing 'lift slowly' won't be effective. For this reason I'm wandering if there might be a graphic solution for notating pedal lifting, such as using hairpins?

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    Not in Sibelius AFAIK, but Dorico can handle this (and lots more contemporary pedalling marks) both in the score and in playback, if your sound library or physical modelled piano can handle "continuous" pedal position inputs rather than just "pedal up/pedal down" switching. The graphic notation is just a sloping pedal line, with the vertical position of the line showing the pedal position.
    – user19146
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 20:38
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    @alephzero that's really an answer; perhaps you could post w/ an image of the notation? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 12:10
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    As someone who is way too poor to afford Dorico, I would bite the bullet and add a notation to "lift pedal slowly". Special instructions happen all the time in sheet music. Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 13:22
  • I have some doubts, whether this attempt of a super-precise notation will succeed or win many friends among the pianists. So life pedal slowly indicating the intention will leave it to the performers to interpret it same same way as everything else in the score.
    – guidot
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 8:35

5 Answers 5

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There are two primary methods outlined by Elaine Gould in Behind Bars:

Gradual depression and release of a pedal is marked by a diagonal line. Where a very slow lifting may require an impractically long diagonal line, use a dotted horizontal line instead.... A verbal instruction is helpful. (page 334)

The below image from the book demonstrates the two approaches.

Diagonal gradual pedal markings and dotted gradual pedal marking

A third option arises from Behind Bars's notation for half-pedaling (page 336) which introduces the marking 1/2 Ped. Compare this to the score presented in Meaning of 1/1 and 1/2 beneath pedaling marking. Based on these, a gradual pedal release could be presented with specific indications of how far to have released the pedal at specific moments in the music. The example below shows how this might be done.

Combined dotted line with fractional release indications

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As far as I know there isn't a standard notation for what you want.

I'd probably use a half-pedal marking, but make the rise or dip in the pedal line wider - and be sure to include a performance instruction explaining the marking.

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The effect you get by lifting the pedal slowly is similar to what you get when playing flagolettes, or harmonics on string instruments. You could adapt the standard simbol for that, and indicate with a line the duration of it.

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You can make a remark at the beginning of the piece (perhaps write a foreword). Make a legend for the individual pedal stages and describe what sound the player should achieve.

*use pedal slightly. Allow strings to vibrate w/harmonics only.

Modern composers are very strict sometimes in giving detailed notes regarding the performing of their(!) musical intentions in the piece. Do the same.

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This is a case where linear graphic notation can be useful as it can give precise fine grain visual information that mere words are single symbols cannot....

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