Make an Ordinary Chord Progression Sound Extraordinary with an Inverted Pedal Point

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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.

Posted in Chord Progressions, songwriting and tagged , , , .


  1. Hey Gary!
    I’ve seen the link in your article about The Script’S song “For the first time” and have a quick question:
    In what way effects the inverted pedal point the name of the chord?
    For example: If you have the chord A and the inverted pedal point f#, will it result in an A6?
    I’m kinda confused that in the chord progression you’ve given [A(add9) F#sus4 Bm E7 A(add9)] the inverted pedal point is f#, and not how I would have figured from the chords, b (as the tone b exists in every chord of the progression).
    I’m sorry for a possibly very awkward question and hope you can help.

    By the way: All the best wishes to you, wour wife and your new-born:)

    • Hi Nick:

      You caught an error that I made. I said that the inverted pedal is the note F#, when in fact I should have said it’s the note B. I’ve corrected it now in the post, and thank you very much for writing and allowing me to fix that.

      And thanks for your good wishes regarding our new little girl, Ruth. She’s certainly turned our world upside down, but in a very wonderful way. 🙂

      Thanks again,

  2. Hi Mark: Usually, I tell songwriters that if you’re in a rut and can’t get a song finished, you need to try a radically different way of writing, just to “shake it up” a bit. If you’ve got a bunch of loops, it may be best to concentrate on one or two of them. Maybe try to find a couple that sound good together… it’s possible that one could be a good starter for a verse, the other for a chorus. It’s hard to be specific without knowing what your loops sound like.

    I’ll write you and give you an address you can send me a couple of your MP3s. I’m happy to listen and see if I can help.


  3. Hey, Found you when I used the Tag Surfer thing in WP. Oh how I’d love to be able to finish a song. I play a little keyboard ( self taught and only really right hand – never got the hang of left / right separation ), anyway, I bought a Yamaha MOTIF XS6 last year, and the problem I have is that I have no problem in creating new little loops, but thats as far as it goes. I have about 2 dozen little bits of song, that on their own I think have potential to be good little songs ( other people may think otherwise, but humour me ok ?? LOL ). Where do I start in order to progress them. If it would help answer the question, you can mail me at and maybe I could send you a couple of MP3’s to listen to, so you can hear my problem.

    Many Thanks,

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