Pedal to the metal tones


Hi, hope all is well This week I figured I’d offer up something I’ve put together using some of the ideas we’ve been talking about in the past few weeks, namely the idea of using pedal tones…and no, I’m not talking about stompboxes.


The term ‘pedal tone’ comes from organ terminology, organists would sustain a low note using the pedals and the harmony would change above this. If the sustained note is in the top voice of the harmony, it is then called an inverted pedal tone, and it’s a combination of the 2 that we’ve been looking at over the past few weeks (the Bach Chorale is riddled with the stuff).


The ten bars we’re looking at this week are some which I wrote quite a while ago and they’re the A section of a tune I often play with my trio. I use inverted pedal tones and voice leading to connect some fairly distant tonal centres. The first few chords are fairly straightforward, I use the note Eb to connect the chords of Cminor7 and Ab major 7. I then use the note F to connect the chords E minor 9 and then, slip down a semitone to the D minor 7 chord. I then carry on with the F in the top part of the chord, while I play the B minor 7 b5; the two previous chords ( D minor7 and B minor7 b5) are found in the C major scale…and the first two chords ( C minor7 and Ab major7) are found in the Ab major scale, The Eb minor 9 connects the two tonalities, so within the space of four bars we’ve jumped about a fair amount of the cycle of fifths, but hopefully in a way which sounds fairly smooth. Carrying on with the chord progression, the top F then rises a semitone to F# while an F# 13 is played, this then leads into a B major to E major vamp, a I – IV in B major, our third and final tonality in this ten bar section…another jump, three in ten bars, but achieved (hopefully) in way which isn’t jarring!!


Grab a chord…any chord…look at the top note and think and what other chords could have that note on top, start to list chords which could share that top note (a knowledge of inversions will be hugely helpful here!!) see how far away you can get (Hmmm…that A note on the top of the F major chord could be the 5th of a D7, or the 9th of a G minor chord, or maybe the b7 a B7 alt, how about the 13th of C13…etc) the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Even the most distant of tonalities will sound connected because, well, they are!! it doesn’t even have to be your top note, it could be some note in the middle of your chord…anything goes!! Connecting chords in this way leads you into territory which is often unexpected, try it out and see where it takes you…



There are pages in Mick Goodrick’s “The Advancing Guitarist” and his voice leading Almanacs which carry these ideas on way further than any other guitarist could ever dream of. Enjoy!!


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