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Chord progressions don’t need to be complicated animals. In fact, the more complicated it is, the more problems it can cause for a song. Progressions that are too complicated are either too long, or throw in chords that are unexpected (i.e., needlessly pulls the song into distantly-related keys).
The good news is that with the simple addition of an inverted pedal point, you can take a very common progression and make it suddenly very interesting. Here’s how that works:
A pedal point is a note, often in the bass, that remains constant while the chords above it change. Sometimes the bass note will not even belong to the chord that’s being played. But the fact that it is a constant feature of that progression makes it work. Here’s a good example of a common bass pedal point:
C F/C G/C C
But did you know that, instead of using a bass note as the constant pitch, you can use an upper note? This is called an inverted pedal. Here’s an example of a common progression (without an inverted pedal):
A Bm A/C# D A
Here it is again, with an inverted pedal on the note C#:
A Bm9 A/C# Dmaj7 A
As you can hear, the addition of that C# note as an upper pedal gives something to the listener to “latch on to.” It creates colours that you might not have considered before, and amounts to a breath of fresh air.
You can add inverted pedals to any chords, and it can even work if the held note is a non-chord-tone for most of the chords in the progression. Here’s an example of a chord progression that holds the note B:
A(add9) F#sus4 Bm E7 A(add9)
So experiment. You can add the inverted pedal as a note in one of the instruments in your band, or even use it as a melody note when you sing. It’s effect can be a bit unpredictable, so be sure to let your ears be your guide.
-Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.