Pedal Points: The Only Drone That Makes Any Guitar Lick Better

Author: Tommaso Zillio

As a guitar player, do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, reciting the same licks over and over again? You listen to your idols playing, and they seem to do something different all the time – yet you’ve been stuck moving up and down scales. This article is for those who are getting stuck and need a new concept to play around with. If that’s you, then read on.

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!

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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, Pedal Points are simply a note played on top of other harmonies that are only required to be consonant with the first. (Wait, is that even English?)

Okay, that was probably too fast. Let’s start again. This is what Pedal Points really are: a note which rings longer than it should. It can be as simple as playing a single note on top of a phrase, or you can play the same note on top of many chords. When done right, using this technique sounds amazing, and is exactly why you’ll hear it used everywhere from classical to pop music.

Below is a quick video I made to show you just how simple this technique really is to use in your playing. 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!

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional player, teacher, and composer. Visit his website to know more about guitar and music theory.

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