Despite the title, todays blog entry is nothing to do with bicycles…. 🙂
A pedal note is where the bottom note of a chord (the bass note) is held through a passage of music including some chords which it does not belong to. This is a great technique which has been used in every form of music, including baroque, classical, rock and pop.
A pedal note can add real drama and build tension in a piece. Sometimes it can be used as a dramatic opening in it’s own right, or as a bridge section.
In the strings, the double bass or cello section can provide a pedal note which adds thickness to allow it to be heard without being too dominating. Many tracks have a sustained pedal note high up in the violins – this is called an inverted pedal but has the same idea. An inverted pedal is a good choice to add mystery or a sense of unresolved longing. A sustained note high on the violins can be a great way of starting or finishing the track, either as a slow introduction or fading out gently at the end.
In a more complex use, it’s possible to use pedal chords – (which have all the notes of a chord combined) – sometimes clashing with the changing chords which surround it – and if it’s placed low in the mix can be very bold when eventually the harmonies resolve.
Although they occur infrequently, when used in the correct way, pedal notes can be an excellent way of adding complexity to a passage which otherwise could sound too simple.