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Pedal Point Technique

by Ioannis Anastassakis

Welcome back, fellow string slingers! This is Ioannis Anastassakis with the fifth installment of the series of articles on Contemporary Rock Guitar Techniques. Before we get started on today's subject, I'd like to once again thank the readers that took the time to email me with comments & suggestions on future columns on various aspects of Rock/Fusion guitar technique. Don't forget to check out my previous columns on Tapping in the January 2004 edition of Guitar Sessions, as well as the Sweet Sweeping - Part I in the February 2004 edition of Guitar Sessions, Sweet Sweeping - Part II in the March 2004 edition of Guitar Sessions and Hybrid Picking in the April 2004 edition of Guitar Sessions!

After your feedback from last months article, I decided to "skip" the string-skipping article (pun definitely intended!!!) for this month and concentrate instead on the technique of pedal point, which seemed to interest quite a few of the people that contacted me through email.

Pedal point is a melodic device that became popular in the Baroque period. It is used extensively in the compositions of J.S.Bach and AntonioVivaldi, and is usually heard in compositions for violin, cello, flute and harpsichord.
Having said all that, it sounds great when played on the electric guitar! Some of the famous guitarists that have used pedal point in their solos and/or compositions are Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, John Petrucci, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, John Sykes & Vinnie Moore!

Our first example is based on the early playing technique of Yngwie Malmsteen. This is a pedal point lick in the scale of A harmonic minor. Use your fourth (little) finger for the pedal tone on the 12th fret and strict alternate picking for the whole lick. In this example, the repeated pedal tone is the highest note of the lick. I call this the single high pedal.

Listen to Example 1

The second lick is based on an idea by Vinnie Moore (Vicious Rumours, UFO), This is based on the A natural minor scale and moves across four different positions of the scale! In this example, the repeated pedal tones are the low note of each one of the positions played. I call this the single low pedal.

Listen to Example 2

Here's another melodic idea, based on the A natural minor scale. This example is based on a concept by Texas guitarist Eric Johnson. This is a single high pedal with a lot of string crossing.

Listen to Example 3

The logical progression of this melodic concept is to use more than one note as pedal tones. Let's examine a few more advanced licks, based on the playing of Vinnie Moore. The next lick uses notes of the A natural minor scale, played at the 12th fret of the guitar. In this case, we have three pedal notes, played on the second string, while there is only one melody note that changes throughout the phrase. The pedal tones are below the melody note. I call this pedal point multi low pedal. Again, use strict alternate picking for this phrase.

Listen to Example 4

This next lick keeps the same scale, playing position and even the same pedal tones! However, the melody notes change, moving below the pedal tones. Obviously, I call this concept the multi high pedal!

Listen to Example 5

Finally, let's expand the pedal point concept include even more notes! This time, seven out of the eight notes in each sequence are the pedal tones, with only the eighth high note changing every two beats! Again, this example is based on the A natural minor scale.

Listen to Example 6

Listening Suggestions for Pedal Point
- Vinnie Moore "Time Odyssey" and "Mind's Eye"
- Yngwie Malmsteen "Rising Force"
- Jason Becker "Perpetual Burn"
- Richie Kotzen "Fever Dream"

Well, that's all for this month!!! Make sure you work on the examples slowly at first before trying to play them fast. A little patience will pay off quickly. Listen carefully to the MP3 recordings to get a clear idea of what each phrase is supposed to sound like at slow and fast speeds. If you have any comments on my articles, suggestions for future columns or any relevant questions, feel free to email me at info@ioannis.org. For more contemporary rock guitar examples, audio & video clips, and a wide assortment of free educational materials, visit my Official WWW Site at www.ioannis.org.

See you next month with an article on string skipping!

Ioannis Anastassakis holds an MA in Guitar Performance and has taught guitar in several universities and guitar festivals in the U.S. and Europe. He has studied electric guitar with Frank Gambale, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore(UFO), Brett Garsed, Scott Henderson, Steve Vai, Marty Friedman and John Petrucci (Dream Theater). Currently, he teaches at the American College of Greece and is preparing an extensive series of educational materials concentrating on contemporary rock fusion guitar for Mel Bay Publications, Inc. Visit his official website at www.ioannis.org.

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