Using an inverted pedal point in your chord progression is a harmony technique so easy you will never forget it! So what is a pedal point in music theory? And how do you use this great composition technique?
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What is a pedal point or pedal note?
A pedal point or pedal note is a very old technique and you can find it in virtually any style, time, or music genre. It is a bass tone that is sustained or repeated, while the chords and melodies on top change. This can last for multiple bars. Often when you switch chords they will have a dissonant relationship with the pedal note that is sustained. Pedal points can strongly confirm the tonic of the music that you are writing in or they can create a lot of tension back to your tonic chord or root note.
You can see this technique in action in my videos on modal chord progressions. And more specifically in my video on Mixolydian chord progressions. A more in-depth article about regular pedal points will follow.
Where does the term Pedal point come from?
How can you experiment freely with pedal notes?
- Sustain any low note
- Freely improvise a melody on top
- Listen to what notes create tension and want to resolve
- Combine these with consonant tones
- Repeat this process with normal chords
Video Tutorial: How An Inverted Pedal Point Changes Your Chord Progression.
If you want to hear how the music theory of adding an inverted pedal point can enhance your chord harmonies by just adding one note. Then check out my video tutorial ‘Inverted Pedal Point: How One note can completely change your chord progression’. It’s nice and short but definitely useful for songwriting and music composition.
If you want to read the video transcript see below at the end of this article.
Inverted Pedal Point
What is an inverted pedal point?
An inverted pedal point is when a pedal note is not in the bass, but when it is in the highest voice or part. And this sustained note in the highest voice can be used to create suspensions, and tension notes and add beautiful colours to your chord progressions. The best thing of all is that this technique is very easy to apply.
Below we have a regular diatonic chord progression. How can we use an inverted pedal point to spice up this chord progression?
Adding Tension with An Inverted Pedal Point
When you add the inverted pedal point to your chord progression it is important to listen and check on which chords it will sound dissonant and on what chords it will sound consonant. This way you can have the result that you want. In general, if the pedal note is part of the underlying chord, then it will sound consonant. If it is a tritone, 4th, major or minor second, and sometimes a seventh it will sound dissonant. And keep in mind that if it is a major 6th on a minor chord or minor 6 on a major chord it will also sound dissonant.
Inverted Pedal Note That Blends
Sometimes you do want the extra colour in your harmonies, but you don’t want any extra tension or dissonance. If this the case, then you need to make sure that your inverted pedal note is part of many of your underlying chords. In our example below the pedal point is part of the first two chords and it creates a soft consonance and soft dissonance on the last two chords.
Pedal notes can be amazing. Especially when you want to create some lush harmonies without too much effort. Just keep in mind that the pedal point does not always have to be in the bass. It can have just as beautiful an effect when it is in the middle or in the top part of your chords.
This seems like an ordinary chord progression to me…
What do you think?
It sounds fine.
But i want to give it an upgrade and i think i’m going to do this by just repeating one note on top.
So if i just add one note and repeat it, can i put all of these chords into a different context while also adding some extra color and tension?
Yes definitely and it’s up to you how far you want to go because not all notes are created equally.
And what i mean by that is that the note that you choose to repeat on top you can control the consonance and the dissonance.
So did you notice that by playing and just repeating one note, you give all the chords a different character and a different color? As i said some become more dissonant while the others they create this beautiful soft and colorful texture.
But what if i want something that blends better and does not sound that dissonant?
In a simple and diatonic progression like this it is very easy to choose and find suitable notes that you can repeat. If the repeated note is part of the triad then it will blend and sound consonant.
Just check out this next example where the repeated note is part of the first two chords.
And on the third chord it creates this beautiful soft consonance which is the major sixth.
Overall this version sounds a lot smoother and softer!
I will also make a video about the rhythm that i used for the repeated notes so be sure to keep an eye out!
But in the meantime, you can improve your skillset by watching this playlist on modal chord progressions.
And for now…
See you next time!