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Section 10.8 Pedal Point

A pedal point is a note that is held through changing harmonies, starting as a chord tone before becoming a non-chord tone. Pedal points are often in the bass voice (the term “pedal” relates to the foot pedals on an organ).

Figure 10.8.1. Bach, J.S., Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, Prelude 1 in C major BWV 846

Here is an example from the Romantic era.

Figure 10.8.2. Clara Schumann, Op. 13, No. 2, “Sie liebten sich beide”

The Clara Schumann example above also has a suspension (“3-2 sus.”); suspensions are discussed in the next section.

When a pedal point is in the bass, it is not necessary to specify the inversion of the chord because the bass pedal point obscures the inversion.

You might also encounter a pedal point in a higher voice, as well as a “double pedal point,” where two notes (often a fifth apart) act as pedal points.