How to Play the Family of Chords in F Major Over Diatonic Pedal Tones, Part One
You know what "F Major" is. But what are "pedal tones?" A pedal tone is a constant note--for our purpose here, a bass note--that is held or repeatedly struck while melodies or chords change 'on top' of it. We will be changing simple triads (three-note chords, the smallest available by the way) over various pedal tones in this lesson. By the way a chord is a group of notes played simultaneously.
Some Other Definitions
A scale is a fixed sequence of notes (or pitches) and a mode is a sub-scale; really a "scale" based on a scale. A chord family is the group of chords that are based on the notes in a key. And a key is a tonal center (a musical 'point of gravity' if you will). With that said, this hub is about playing a family of chords over a series of pedal tones.
Why This Hub?
More guitarists need to see the 'big picture', theory-wise. Pianists can't have all the fun in that regard (don't get me wrong: I love great piano pieces and players).
One way to see the big picture--which in this case is how the chord family of F Major sounds when played over all possible "diatonic" pedal tones--is to simply de-tune the lower strings as needed in order to create the desired scale of pedal tones. Sounds too complicated when spelled out, I know. So let me show you how to do it.
Overview of Parts 1 - 3 (or maybe 4)
This Lesson is Part One. In general, this series will cover:
- 1 chord family (consisting of 7 chords) with 7 pedal tones (one for each note of the 'parent' scale--F Major in this case)
- 3 type of chords: 'root position', 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion
- Each chord type will be played over all 7 pedal tones before moving on to the next type. Don't worry: each chord is no more than three notes and the pedal tones (bass notes) will always be open strings.
Okay, let's start...time to pick a key. Cwould be a good choice because of that key's lack of sharps or flats (commonly called accidentals. Don't know why though; they usually aren't mistakes). However, F is better for our purpose since that key allows me to have the low E and A strings free for pedal tones.
Step 1: Tune the low E string up to F(a half-step, or one fret worth of pitch). A good way to do this is to match the 5th fret harmonic* on the low E with the 1st fret, high E string. *a harmonic is a bell-like sound that is obtained by placing any fret-hand finger OVER the actually metal fret (rather than behind it. And don't press down, by the way), hitting the corresponding string, then removing the finger and letting the bell-sound ring. Didn't mean for that to rhyme, seriously.
Step 2: Grab a simple F Major triad in 'root position' (1-3-5 for those of you who know. Those who don't, don't worry: this is really about listening rather than number-flipping) on the D, G, and B strings.That's first position: 3rd finger - 3rd fret - D string; 2nd finger - 2nd fret - G string; and 1st finger - 1st fret - B string. Nothin' happenin' on the high E.
Step 3: Mute the A string with the tip of your 3rd finger (by overextending it) and strum or finger-pick the low E, D, G, and B strings. You will get a slightly sparse-sounding F Major chord with the root note doubled. Now here's where things get interesting...
Step 4: Do the same for a 'root position' G minor chord (2-4-6 in the key of F or 1-b3-5 relative to G). 3rd position: 3rd finger - 5th fret - D string; 1st finger barre on the 3rd fret across the G and B strings. Again, nothin' doin' on the high E (poor guy). Mute the A string and you will have a G minor chord against an F bass.
Step 5: Do the same for a 'root position' A minor chord (3-5-7 in F or 1-b3-5 relative to A). Same fingering as above but in 5th position. By the way, a fret-board position is wherever your fret-hand 1st finger is at any given time, and whether or not it is being played at the time.
Step 6-10: Repeat the process for Bb in 6th position (4-6-1 in F or 1-3-5 relative to Bb), C in 8th position (5-7-2 in F or 1-3-5 relative to C), D minor in tenth position (6-1-3 in F or 1-b3-5 relative to D), E diminished in 11th position (7-2-4 in F or 1-b3-b5 relative to E), and wrap things up with F in 13th position.
...You're done with the first set of chords--the 'root position' triads--in the first family, F Major. And they sound really nice descending, believe me. So why not bring it back down to F Major in 1st position (just REVERSE the above ten steps). Again, written out, this hub seems three times the work it really is.
If you are into this, you'll be able to whip through all 147 chords (21 chords over 7 pedal tones) in 1/4 of an hour...and the only reason it will take any longer is because you're 'stopping to smell the roses', music-wise (yes, this exercise does tend to lead to songs, cinematic themes, etc.).
Those of You With No Patience Have Already Stopped Reading This.
...Begone, thou lazy sluggard. However, for the rest of you who are sticking it out--especially for those of you who don't know what a "1", "3" or "5" is--there is tremendous good news: after the next two families--1st inversion and 2nd inversion triads--it's all coasting. You'll be playing the same 21 three-note chords for each new pedal tone / bass note.
However, Now's a Good Time to Pause.
Yep, it is. I took a look at the paragraphs written thus far and any more would be overdoing it for one hub. Like I said, music explained with words always carries a bigger bark than bite.
So, What Did You Learn Today?
Today you learned seven triads in the key of F and how to play them over an F pedal tone (just raise your low E string to F). Along the way I hope you got some new ideas--maybe a new chord progression or two. In Part Two we'll explore multiple pedal tones using the same triads shown today.
And remember: a guitarist, just like an actor, plays many parts. Only thing is, with us, the special effects are real.