Prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.
Sometimes, the best way forward is actually to go back in time. In this article, we'll look at Pedal Points: a trick from the old days of music theory.
Learning to use Pedal Points is one of the biggest "secrets" of music theory. No, I don't believe there's actually a conspiracy afoot to keep it hidden from the public. Or so I hope - if you don't hear from me again after this article, let's just say you'll know why! But it's a fact that Pedal Points are usually taught just as an afterthought.
At least, every time I come across Pedal Points in a theory book, it's only noted in a few brief lines, and then they quickly move to the next technique. As such, many teachers don't really touch on the subject. Maybe it's because it's a simple concept, and many teachers think students will find it too "obvious".
I mean, really, Pedal Points are simply a note played on top of other harmonies that are only required to be consonant with the first. (Wait, is that even English?)
Okay, that was probably too fast. Let's start again. This is what Pedal Points really are: a note which rings longer than it should. It can be as simple as playing a single note on top of a phrase, or you can play the same note on top of many chords. When done right, using this technique sounds amazing, and is exactly why you'll hear it used everywhere from classical to pop music.
Below is a quick video I made to show you just how simple this technique really is to use in your playing. Watch it now:
Now that you know what this is, I guarantee you'll be able to pick it out of many of your favorite artists. The technique produces a distinctive sound that is easy to recognize. Now that you see how Pedal Points are used, try adding them to some songs of your own!
About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.