5 Tonic Pedal

A tonic pedal can be very effective at any point in a piece. Try different chords against it and see how it works out. You can get away with quite a lot of dissonance as long as the dissonant notes resolve by step back to notes that fit with the pedal. In the example from the opening of a Beethoven string quartet below, there are a variety of harmonies some consonant (i in bar 1, iv in bar 3) and some more dissonant (ii at the beginning of bar 5, vii7 in bars 2 and 6).

Beethoven Op. 18 No. 4, first movement


In terms of diatonic chords, the following fit particularly well over a tonic pedal

  • I
  • ii
  • IV
  • V7
  • vii

In this next example, Mozart uses a tonic pedal as part of a coda before some final perfect cadences. Features to steal include:

  • a hint at tonicising the subdominant, so in the second bar we have with a flattened seventh acting as a dominant seventh to chord IV in the third bar
  • use of a nice, dissonant chord vii the fourth bar (resolving to in the next bar but the D and the Ab are held over as suspensions for another beat)

Mozart Quartet in Eb K 428, end of last movement

Mozart k428