A "pedal tone"? You may be asking. What on earth is that?!
Well, if you haven't taken music theory or if you weren't paying attention in music theory, the definitive source of Wikipedia defines a pedal tone as "a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i.e., dissonant harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing tones."
So yeah, a note that stays still while the rest of the chords are changing.
Like any feature of anything, this can be done well, and this can be done awfully, so here's a list of three pedal tones that really get me going.
1. Choral-Orchestral Dissonance in TSFH's "Turin"
I love this song for many reason's, but one of them is an interesting pedal tone in a repeated figure throughout the piece.
The first instance starts at 0:44 in the video. The orchestra begins with a rising figure which the choir section follows with three articulated chords. The third chord features a B-flat in the orchestra that resolves to an A, but the choir section stays on the B-flat, refusing to resolve, keeping with the pedal tone.
I love this strictly because of the dissonance between the orchestra and choir sections. There's nothing truly special about the theory involved, it's the instrumental voicing that gets me. It's something I've never heard before, and something that makes me excited about music.
2. Seventh to Ninth Pedal Tone Shift In The Main Theme From The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There are 110 reasons you should be obsessed with this theme to begin with, and one of them is the interesting use of pedal tones. If you want to go super in depth about the theory of this piece, please check out this video from one of my favorite video game music theory YouTubers.
He has a mult-part series on Breath of the Wild alone, and many videos on Legend of Zelda music, so he's definitely worth a click.
Anyway, here's a section of the piece that starts a little before 1:17 in the first video, but the pedal tone is at 1:17.
Here's the sheet music that I bluntly stole from the transcription 8-Bit music theory uses in his video.
We're looking here at measures 48 and 49. The G natural, which functions as the seventh in the Am7 chord, carries over as a pedal tone and begins to function as a ninth. Rather than resolving downward the melody continues in upward motion and i'm obsessed.
3. Very Subtle Brass Pedal Tones Also In The Main Theme From The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If you listen to one of the last figures in this theme appearing around 1:40-1:41, you get a minor third in the brass section that holds through as a pedal tone, so it's less of a pedal tone and more of a pedal interval. These are featured in measures 53 and 54.
Over the C minor chord they function as a third and a fifth, but under the F chord they function as a minor seventh and a ninth.
I love it.
I also would not have known about this had I not started listening to the soundtrack on my phone.
I'm not one to play a video game using bluetooth headphones, so there's a lot of quieter elements in the music that went completely under the radar due to volume alone.
That's literally it. I just really like these pedal tones, and I hope that everyone looks out for fun musical elements in the music they consume. I'd love to hear what other people enjoy.