It refers to a note that is sustained over a long period of time. More often than not, it starts on a consonance and throughout the chord succession, or progression, the note is sustained as a dissonance until it resolves back to being a consonance. Generally, it starts on the tonic or the dominant pitch of the scale. Commonly, it can be heard on the bass but it may appear on the middle or high register:
- Pedal point – when the note is sustained on the bass register
- Inverted pedal point – note, or notes, that are sustained in high register
- Internal pedal point – note or group of notes that are sustained in the middle register
This technique can be used to introduce and sustain tension because the pedal point is pulling attention to a tonic while the harmonic changes move away from it introducing more or less dissonance, according to the composer’s intent. It can also be used as an anticipation or suspension device in order to strengthen a harmonic cadence:
The pedal point effect can also induce different moods and musical landscapes that are influenced by the harmonic material, tempo and register of the pedal point:
Pedal points are not restricted to only one note, especially on middle and high register.
Nevertheless, even in bass register, double and triple pedal points can be used – two or three notes played simultaneously; and, in which case, it resembles more like a drone although a pedal point lasts for shorter periods of time:
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