Tip #137 – Simplifying Harmony to a Pedal Point

Say you have a beginning of a new musical work like this below:

As of right now, there is nothing wrong with it, but it can sure use some development and expansion.

However, what if you didn’t like the idea of the harmony jumping from chord to chord each measure? What can you do?

One tip I learned is that you can reduce the harmony down to a single melodic (or harmonic) pedal point based on either the first of fifth scale degree of the scale/mode.

So, a revised version of creating a stagnant pedal on those two scale degrees look as such:

Play both examples above, and listen to how they both sound “complete” in a way.

Still, the pedal point does not always have to be in the bass. Take a look at what is done here:

A pedal based on the arpeggiation of a harmony built on the fifth scale degree is play continuously over the same melody. And even though the melody itself suggests chord changes to that of the original, the simplified pedal works great harmonically with everything.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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