What is “Pedal Point”?
In order to be able to apply today’s lesson, you need to know the info covered in following blogs:
In previous blogs we discussed the melodic pedal point used in guitar solos, today we’ll discuss the rhythm guitar pedal point.
The term “pedal point” (also called: pedal tone, pedal note, organ point, or pedal) is taken from organ playing.
The organist plays bass notes with pedals he presses down with his feet while playing melodies and chords on top of that sustaining bass note with the hands.
One way to do this on guitar: hit an open bass string, then play chords over that sustaining bass note. You might think you could only do this on guitar in the keys of E and Em, A and Am, D and Dm. (Open bass strings on a guitar)
However; here’s something really cool to know about: you could play a pedal on a guitar in all 12 keys. I can think of 2 ways to accomplish this:
- Tuning the low E string and/or low A string (or D string) up or down to different bass notes. You could tune the low E string up to F or even F#. You could also tune the A string down to F or F#. You could tune the low E string down lower to E, D, Db/C#, C, B or possibly even Bb depending on your string gauge. You could tune the A string up to Bb, or down to Ab, G, F# or F. This covers all 12 keys.
- Use a partial capo. A partial capo is a capo that only presses down 1 or a select number of strings. You can capo any string combination or only 1 specific string with following capo SpiderCapo Standard – Universal Partial Capo
For the sake of simplicity in getting you started with your explorations of pedal point, we will do this in the key of A minor.
Pedal points are usually on either the tonic or the dominant (first or fifth note of the scale) tones. We will choose the open A string: A is the tonic (means “the first note”) in an A minor scale.
The pedal tone (A in our case) is considered a chord tone in the original harmony (Am chord), then a non-chord tone during the intervening dissonant harmonies (other chords of the Am scale), and then a chord tone again when the harmony resolves.
The pedal point can be used to achieve tension, resulting in a dissonant, dramatic effect.
It’s a great compositional tool that creates really cool sounds.
Getting Started: Pedal Point in Am
Whenever you see a chord progression like the following, that is a pedal point chord progression:
Am Dm/A C/A G/A F/A Bdim/A
It shows you chords of an A minor scale, all played with a repeating A bass note.
Chords that consist of 2 letters, are also called “slash chords” or “hybrid chords”. The first letter is the chord, the 2nd letter is the bass note.
To get your toes wet, start off just playing Am triad inversions up and down a string set of your choice.
Once you get the hang of this, do the same with Dm triads on the same string set.
Then start switching back and forth between Am and Dm triads.
Once this gets easier: add in the Em triads.
Then the C triads, and so on, till you have all 7 chords of the A minor scale included. (Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, G )
You’ll have a ton of fun with these very orchestral, compositionally rich-sounding textures of pedal point.
Here’s how it sounds like:
In next week’s free lesson blog, we’ll cover how to practice the triads in all 12 keys.
When you get the triads down in all 12 keys, that is going to prep you for the really exciting pedal point blog coming up in 2-3 weeks.
Today’s blog lesson was merely a warm-up for the really cool, orchestral-sounding pedal point techniques we’ll be discussing in 3 weeks.
Hit me up anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to send you backing tracks of the above chord progression, if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
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