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How to Play the Family of Chords in F Major Over Diatonic Pedal Tones, Part Two

Updated on August 10, 2011
1-3-5 triad in F Major in 1st position.
1-3-5 triad in F Major in 1st position.

Last hub, you learned how to play the family of 1-3-5 (root, third, fifth) triads in the key of F Major on the D, G, and B strings from First to Thirteenth position. The chords were played over an F pedal tone, which was accomplished by tuning the low E string up one half-step to F.

This hub will expand on the detuned open-string concept so that all of the notes of F Major are used as pedal tones under the family of 1-3-5 triads introduced last hub. Assuming you've played that family of triads over an F pedal tone, let's move on to the E pedal tone.

Playing last hub's triads over E is Easily accomplished (okay, pun intended) by returning the low E string to its traditional state and playing the seven chords on the D-G-B string set from First position to Thirteenth, then back down. Don't be shocked by the dissonance. This type of diatonic 'experimentation' is fertile ground, often leading quickly to new songs and other ideas.

To sum up the above paragraph in musician-lingo, you'll be playing F Major, G minor, A minor, Bb Major, C Major, Dminor, E diminished, and F Major again--but an octave higher--over a low E pedal tone. Be sure to mute that A string for now (see Part One of this series for how to do that). And, yes, for you note-watchers here, the relationships DO change between the chords and the new bass note. Below shows a quick run-down of those:

The Family of 1-3-5 Triads (in F Major) Over an E Pedal

The notes and "feel" are discussed below. For fingerings / fretboard positions, see Part One.

  • F Major over E: this is very dissonant (odd sounding but not at all useless). Far from its harmonious relationship with the F bass note, the F Major triad functions as b2-4-b6 in this context. Altogether and from lowest-highest, the notes are: E F A C.

  • G minor over E: this is none else than an Em7b5 (minor 7 flat five) chord. The G minor triad is b3-b5-b7 in this context. The notes are: E G Bb D.

  • A minor over E: this is simply an A minor chord with a reinforced 5th. The notes are: E A C E.

  • Bb Major over E: more dissonant than F Major over the same, this triad functions as b5-b7-b2 (or b9) in this context. Not for the squeamish. The notes: E Bb D F.

  • C Major over E: simply a C chord with the 3rd reinforced: E C E G.

  • D minor over E: dissonant but not as wildly as F / E bass or Bb / E bass, this triad functions as b7-b2-4 and has a "Spanish" flavor. The notes are: E D F A.

  • E minor 7 b5 over E: an Em7b5 chord with the root reinforced. No Pulitzer here.

  • F Major over E (one octave higher).

  • Now do them in reverse.

...Playing the Remaining Pedal Tones

You don't always have to tune DOWN...
You don't always have to tune DOWN...

So far you've played an F and an E pedal tone while playing triads 'on top'. To play the remaining pedal tones, follow these directions regarding the further detuning of your strings; first low E, then A.

To play D, lower your low E string a whole-step. The family of triads will sound 'at home' over this pedal tone because it's the relative minor to F.

To play C, lower it another whole-step (two whole-steps from E). Again, the family of triads will sound 'at home' over this pedal since it's the 5th of F, the key note of the family. The family now functions as the C Mixolydian family of triads with F Major--normally the fourth--as the first chord.

To play Bb, go to the A string, tuning it up a half-step. The family of triads will sound 'dreamy' over this note since now they are functioning as the Bb Lydian family.

To play A...need I say more? Phrygian fam in the house. Slightly "Spanish" sounding.

To play G, simply lower your A string a whole-step. This is the Dorian family.

Makes sense? If not, let me know.

What You Learned Today

Today you learned how to play a series a pedal tones that completed the F Major scale in descending order (F E D C Bb A G). Ascending order would have been fine, by the way. You played the family of 1-3-5 triads over each pedal tone / bass note.

Part Three of this series will introduce 1st Inversion triads.


Basic Music Theory for Fretboarders

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