Chord Progressions: Pedal Point

A Pedal Point is a sustained tone, usually the lowest bass note, over which the changing chords in a chord progression are played. The pedal tone is usually the tonic (Do) of the prevailing key, but So is also common.

Pedal Point derives its name from organ music, where the organist can plant a foot on one of the organ pedals, sustaining a low note indefinitely while the hands are free to play the keyboards. Pedal point is an easy, but very effective way to create harmonic interest by generating more harmonic tension than the tension chords alone (without the pedal tone) can provide.

Pedal points are common in many kinds of musics: classical, pop, rock, and jazz. With just a little experience, you will instantly recognize a pedal point when you hear it or read it. To that end, here are some noteworthy examples to get you started. In each case, notice the tasty dissonance that is created when the pedal is played under the tension chords and the satisfying release when the tonic chord returns.

Note: The “slash” notation “/” for the chord symbols, where the letter name after the slash defines the pedal tone.


Classical: Invention Number 8 (Bach)

In the key of F, with an F pedal (Do) under the chords F-Bb-C7-F (I-IV-V7-I)…

piano-ology-chord-progressions-pedal-point-example-bach


Pop: Theme from Cheers

In the key of Bb, with a Bb pedal (Do) under the chords Bb-F (I-V)…

piano-ology-chord-progressions-pedal-point-example-cheers


Rock: Vamp in C

In the key of C, with a C pedal (Do) under the chords C-F-Bb-C (I-IV-bVII-I)…

piano-ology-chord-progressions-pedal-point-example-rock-vamp


Jazz: Stolen Moments (Oliver Nelson)

In the key of C minor, with C pedal (Do) under the chords Cm7-Dm7-EbM7 (im7-iim7-bIIIM7-ii7-im7-I)…

piano-ology-chord-progressions-pedal-point-example-stolen-moments

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
This entry was posted in Aural Comprehension, Chord Progressions, Music Theory and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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