Pedal Point: What it Is, and How to Use It

One harmonic technique that you really need in your arranging arsenal is how to use pedal point.

Pedal point comes in really handy in intros (especially ballads), bridges, interludes, etc. – just about anywhere that you need some variety in your chart.

This lesson covers some basic information about what pedal point is, how it is used, then I play for you two separate arrangements whereby I used pedal point within the chart.

Hope you enjoy it, and please let me know if you have any questions.


7 Replies to “Pedal Point: What it Is, and How to Use It”

  1. Alan Large

    Thanks Jim

    In classical music, as you’ll know, the pedal technique can be applied to inner and upper harmonic voices as well. Would you consider applying those options to a big band scenario – or is it best left to the bass?

  2. Jim Martin

    Alan: yes, you can use pedal in different registers as well. The composers that come to mind off the top of my head are Jim McNeely and probably Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evans as well. I’ll look into and try to find specific examples though. I just wanted to cover the most widely used version in this lesson however.

  3. Shane Kershaw

    Nice one again. Inverted pedal poitns are nice as well, and have a use in arranging for small and large jazz ensembles in my experience.

    First time I’ve heard the recommendation to use the dominant as the pedal tone, but then that means I’ve learnt something.

    Currently involved in doing some house and techno music and pedal points form a large base of the work, unfortunately the harmonic language is not as sophisticated, mainly because this is music made by untrained musicians who, in the main, disdain anything to do with music theory. But I will battle it out with my comrades and educate them if not win them over.


  4. anthony williams

    Comment on the 9 week course.

    I love the idea, once its not expensive-you know musicians are broke:(-I am definitely interested. Keep up the good work.


  5. Ray Harvey

    the first post I have looked at and very interesting. Never seen the phantom writer previously it works very well .great to see the illustration and hear the parts.Have used dominant pedal for intros and liked the chords and movement

  6. gabriel jesus

    exelente me encantaria tomar uncurso con usted al precio que sea gracias por conpartir estas conocimientos y avisenme si hay un curso online

  7. Bob McIntyre


    Your classes are very useful!

    But, is there a class that discusses harmonising a melodic phrase in one chord? This is something I’d really like to get better at. It’s easy to have everybody playing a unison melody or to invent a 2-part harmony, but harmonising on a larger scale with more than 3 parts is a topic on which I would really appreciate some guidance.


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