Traditionally, "P" and "*" are used to indicate the use of sustain pedal for the piano, and the release of it, respectively. However, in composing my own piece, I often want to indicate the player that the sustain pedal be used in playing the present passage, but I do not want to specify the detailed pedal marks, which is up to the player's interpretation, as well as depending on the instrument and sound effect of the venue.

I recall some composers, like Schumann and Brahms, use "con pedale" and "senza pedale", respectively, to indicate such intention: that pedal be used or not be used in general, but the execution is left the to player.

But there may arise other problems. First, I feel some people may misunderstand and suppose that the pedal should be used throughout the passage, and there can be no time interval when the pedal is kept being released. (I don't think there will be people who think I forbid the change of pedal completely, though.) Second, still some people may think that the pedal should not be used in the preceding passage and the following passage, but only the present passage.

What do you think it best to denote my intention of pedal usage? Is my worry reasonable?

  • 1
    I don’t think that it matters anything as most people use the pedal ad libitum. Feb 12, 2019 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


No, no-one will assume 'con pedale' or similar means 'put it down and leave it down'. In fact, when that special effect IS occasionally required, it can be quite hard to find a command that conveys the information!

But yes, if 'con pedale' occurs part-way through a piece, it might be taken to imply 'senza pedale' previously. And that might be no bad thing! Many pianists use FAR too much pedal.


In general, notate anything that is up to the performer as "Ad lib[erandum]" . In your case, perhaps "con pedale ad lib." would do the trick.

  • 1
    Really no need for the 'ad lib'.
    – Laurence
    Feb 12, 2019 at 13:33
  • Alternatively, to make it even simpler one may just write it in plain English: "Use pedal as desired".
    – user57228
    Feb 12, 2019 at 13:40
  • I reckon most of us use pedal instinctively (once we've mastered the technique(s)), so unless it's for a specific effect, 'please yourself' will do!
    – Tim
    Feb 12, 2019 at 17:49

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