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Guitar Pedal Points
by Rich Scott

In this lesson we will look at examples of the use of guitar pedal points in popular hit songs.

The first example is the main verse and chorus progression to Nickleback’s 2005 hit “Photograph.” The chord fingerings for each chord are shown below in tab. Here the guitar pedals on the high open "E" and "B" notes while playing a "I-V-bVII-IV" Classic Rock progression.

Chord Progression:

| E5     / / / | Badd4 / / / |

| D6add9 / / / | Aadd2 / / / |

Chord Fingerings:

    E5    Badd4   D6add9  Aadd2
E---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
B---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
G---9---|---8---|--11---|---6---|
D---9---|---9---|--12---|---7---|
A---7---|---9---|--12---|---7---|
E---0---|---7---|--10---|---5---|
The next example is the first 16 bars of The Who’s 1967 hit I Can See for Miles. Again, the chord fingerings for each chord are shown below in tab. Here the guitar pedals on both the high and low open "E" notes as well as the open "B" string while playing a "I-bIII-IV" Classic Rock progression. Pete Townshend was a master at creating great rock songs using pedal points and his music is a good place to study their use.

Chord Progression:

| E      / / / | G6/E / Aadd2/E / |

| E      / / / | G6/E / Aadd2/E / |

| E      / / / | G6/E / Aadd2/E / |

| E      / / / |     / /      / / |

| G6/E   / / / | Aadd2/E  /   / / | 

| CMaj/E / / / | D6add9/E /   / / |

| E      / / / |        / /   / / | 

| E      / / / |        / /   / / | 

Chord Fingering:

    E      G6/E  Aadd2/E CMaj7/E D6add9/E
E---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
B---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
G---1---|---4---|---6---|---9---|--11---|
D---2---|---5---|---7---|--10---|--12---|
A---2---|---5---|---7---|--10---|--12---|
E---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
In the next example is the intro and chorus progression to The Who's 1966 Substitute. Here the guitar pedals on the open "D" string while playing a "I-V-IV-I" Rock and Roll progression variation. Again, the chord fingerings for each chord are shown below in tab. The first D chord fingering is used on the first beat and the second fingering (D1) is used at all other times.

Chord Progression:

| D D1 A/D / | G/D / D / |
 
| D D1 A/D / | G/D / D / |

Chord Fingerings:

    D       D1     A/D     G/D
E---5---|---2---|---5---|---3---|
B---7---|---3---|---5---|---3---|
G---7---|---2---|---6---|---4---|
D---0---|---0---|---0---|---0---|
A-------|-------|-------|-------|
E-------|-------|-------|-------|
The last example is the intro progression to The Who's 1969 hit Pinball Wizard from the rock opera "Tommy." The guitar pedals on the fretted "F#" bass note and is fingered as follows:

Chord Progression:

| Bm/F# / / / | Bmadd4/F# / / / | F#7sus4 / / / | F#7 / / / |

| F#m7 / / /  | GM6/7     / / / |

Chord Fingerings:

   Bm/F#               Bmadd4/F#           F#7sus4           
E--2----------------|--0----------------|--0----------------|
B--3----------------|--3----------------|--2----------------|
G--4----------------|--4----------------|--4----------------|
D--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4--|--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4--|--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4--|
A-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|
E-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|

   F#7                    F#m7              GM6/7             
E--0-------------------|--0---------------|-0---------------|
B--2-------------------|--2---------------|-0---------------|
G--3-------------------|--2---------------|-0---------------|
D--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-----|--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-|-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-|
A----------------------|------------------|-----------------|
E----------------------|------------------|-----------------|
Pete Townshend said "The chordal structure for the intro was inspired by [English Baroque composer] Henry Purcell, who did this very short piece called "Symphony Upon One Note.' It's a very plaintive piece, almost like the [20th-century U.S. composer] Samuel Barber composition 'Adagio for String' - only the Purcell piece was written in 1600 or something. A single bowed note runs throughout that whole piece. I found that a stunning thing to call upon while I was in the process of writing 'Pinball Wizard.' I analyzed every single chord in the piece and found ways to play them on guitar."

We have barely scatched the surface of what has been and can be done with Pedal Points. Money Chords - A Sourcebook of Popular Chord Progressions lists nine pages of Static Bass Line Progressions alone. That book would be another place to continue to study of these progressions as well as the lessons below. Also Acoustic Guitar magazines October 2000 issue has a great article on this subject entitled "Pedal Points and Chords."

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