Have you felt like you're playing the same guitar progressions and licks over and over again? All of the artists you hear on the radio have progressed with their sound with every new album, but you can't seem to get out of a rut. If you've found yourself in this situation once or twice before, then here's one simple trick that can help you out of it.
I often find that the easiest way to make a new discovery to go back through old readings. Today's technique comes from one of those moments - in fact, it's one of the oldest concepts in the book: Pedal Points!
These are one of the most interesting, "secret" techniques that rarely get talked about, but are used everywhere. I don't think anybody is making efforts keep this one a secret , but it just doesn't seem to get any attention. Or at least I hope. If there actually is a conspiracy to keep them secret, then I may have to answer a few questions after writing this piece!
Most theory guides contain just a small mention of Pedal Points, as such, not many teachers even teach the technique. Some consider it such a simple technique, that they believe it should be obvious to their students - or that they would not be interested or find any value in it.
I mean, really, they are just a single note, played on top of changing harmonies and consonant with the first. (Huh?)
Okay, maybe not that simple. Here's what a Pedal Point actually is: it's a single note that is played over and over again. It could be held over many strummed chords, or hit periodically throughout a progression or a phrase. It sounds fantastic, and when you hear it, you'll understand why it's been used throughout the history of music.
Here's a short video I made to show you a few examples of Pedal Points, and some tips for how to use them in a song or solo. Let's watch it now:
Now that you know what this is, I guarantee you'll be able to pick it out of many of your favourite 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!
Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.
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