Rock Around the Croc: Moving Chords Over Static Pedal Points

Happy Sunday, you brand new packs of Lifesavers, it’s fancy-pants music Sunday. I’m your host Sobek, and today I’m going to focus on one specific music technique. Ready? Awesome!

Last week, I was talking about Gustav Holst’s “Mars,” and I wrote, “We have harmonic dissonances caused by moving chords over static pedal points (a cool effect that I’ve never had time to discuss in one of these posts).” Well today’s your lucky day, because I have some time now.

In music, a pedal is defined as “a tone sustained by one part, usually the bass, while other parts progress without reference to it.” In pop and rock, it basically means you’re laying down eighth notes to create a driving rhythm while the guitar and vocals are doing something a little more intricate on top. Cliff WIlliams of ACDC famously plays almost nothing but eighth notes, prompting a lot of bass players to say he sucks, but the reality is he recognizes his proper role in creating the sound and knows how to play what the song requires. Here’s Who Made Who. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but pay close attention to the bass this time:

And that’s it, just a ton of eighth notes while Angus creates the texture that makes the song worth listening to. That’s how a pedl works.

A static pedal means you hang out on the same note. In the ACDC song, Cliff plays nothing but Cs for twenty-five full seconds, then A, then G, then back to C. Within those measures, it’s a static pedal.

Adam Clayton is another bass player who doesn’t always get much love, and he plays a lot of pedals. That’s fine, that’s what the songs need, and if you know what to listen for, you know there’s more going on that just “he’s playing a bunch of eighth notes!”

So that’s what pedals are. Tons and tons of songs use them.

Now let’s focus on something you can do with pedals that goes beyond just hitting eighth notes for a three minute run-time. This is Walk This World, by Heather Nova, and I’m choosing this particular video because the bass is a bit louder in the recording, and so that you can see what’s going on a little better:

This song features a moving bass line over a static chord, all on the same instrument, which I think is pretty cool. On the second and fourth beats, you can see the 7-9-7 moving up the neck. That first 7 is an A, so beats 2 and 4 are basically A-chords. Meanwhile, beats 1 and 3 start on 7, then down to 6, to 5, to 4, before repeating. Those notes are E, D#, D and C#. Since the A chords aren’t going anywhere, and the descending 7-6-5-4 is going somewhere, you have an effect where the bass creates this tension/resolution effect all by itself by keeping the chord static and moving the bass line out from underneath it. Even if you don’t understand chord notation, you can see at the top of the screen that there’s a Em (shorthand for E minor), which is a pretty simple chord, but the next one is bonkers, Em7M/D#. The only reason you can play something like that and not get fired from the band is because you’re about to move away from it soon afterwards, but by playing it, you create that dissonance that I mentioned when talking Holst. Hopefully this makes sense.

One of my two favorite Deftones songs does this, and I absolutely love it. This is Risk, from the album Diamond Eyes:

There’s so much going on in this song to make me love it, and I won’t talk about it all. For today, just notice that after that first chord in the beginning, we move into main riff, which is mostly a descending line. But if you aren’t paying attention, you can easily miss that the bass and guitar aren’t moving at all. It’s the keyboard, playing a high, ethereal sound that puts the strings into a different context and thus creates the illusion of movement. It’s such a neat effect. You can see it better if you watch a bass cover:

So there you go, that’s what Gustav Holst and the Deftones have in common, aside from their ability to rock your face off, and now you know how musicians can trick you into hearing something that isn’t even there. If you don’t agree that Risk is one of the greatest rock songs of all time, then I love you anyway, but you’re wrong.

Last week I discovered a band called Flower Face, completely by accident, just because one of the songs was called Jupiter, and I was writing a post with a planet theme. Since then I have listened to the album Baby Teeth about 900 times, and I’m in love. I encourage you to check out the whole album, but if you don’t have time, then my three favorites are Baby Teeth (when the full instrumentation kicks in at 0:52 it blows my mind):


and Always You:

All three of those songs are so, so much better with headphones, by the way, so you get the full wall of emotional impact.

And that’s it for this week. I love you, you delightful little monkey skulls, and I hope you have an amazing week.


  1. I hope everyone remembered to set their bombs an hour ahead

  2. I know it’s his style, but the Deftones breathy singing style just bugs me, like the microphone is taped to his face and you hear every inhale. BUGS.

    Also, I love Flower Face’s voice, so sweet, but her song lyrics make me want to jump off a cliff. Melancholy is her thing, not recommended for Leon and Brotim. MAKE A HAPPY SONG. She looks exactly like I expected, very talented.

  3. Thanks to whoever fixed the clock.

  4. Daisy Pepper’s bass has 5 strings. WHAT IS GOING ON?

  5. Daylight Savings always kind of fucks with my equilibrium. Sorry in advance I’ll be fine in a few days. There is no caps lock button on my chromebook pc or I’d be all caps all the time.

  6. Messes me up for a week or two.

    Pretty sure this will be the last time.

  7. I hate DST. This is the last “switch” ever, supposedly. I think it’s bullshit, but congress — true to form — of course picked the wrong setting for the clock to be “permanent”.

  8. We lost a barely 3yo hen yesterday. No discernible injury, none of the other hens seem ill. She was hopping around fine yesterday morning, so I wouldn’t expect she was egg-bound or anything. Maybe she broke her neck hopping off the roost or something.

  9. wakey wakey

  10. Getting our first real sticking snow of the year.
    Bet it’s all melted off by tomorrow.

  11. We got about 3″ overnight, but today’s high is supposed to be 40. I ain’t shovelin’.

  12. the Deftones breathy singing style just bugs me

    Same here.

  13. Rocketboy, DIL, and godson are coming over for lunch. Bets as to whether they remember the time change.

    I’m making cottage pie, trying to figure out dessert.

  14. So how hard will the banks bite the wax tadpole next week and how many hundreds of billions of dollars will it cost us this time?

  15. I lurv the Deftones.

  16. Just did a job near the shore, now we are headed back to the shop to take care of a couple details. Worked yesterday too. Both will be half days, but Monday is going to feel like we never left.

  17. That’s the worst … I have unpleasant memories of call weekends where Friday night was spent lining up a case for Saturday, Saturday was spent hanging around waiting to begin and then on Sunday getting slammed with a late night case all before the usual Monday office. Because that was unusual I couldn’t schedule Monday off.

  18. I’ve been busy as all get out with life stuff the past month or so. I decided to get a little jump on posts in case I get jammed up time wise.
    When I scheduled a couple post I saw they were going to some “random” day and time which I didn’t select ….
    Whichever one of you asswipes changed us to Oral time zone…..
    Three monkey thumbs up to you.

  19. Mitchell, I fear we haven’t seen the last bank to fail in this go around. I’m in a regional bank with branches in a few New England states as well as a credit union solely in Maine.

  20. Onward thru the fog….

  21. That felt more like a gorilla thumb TBH

  22. Welp, just ended a friendship today. Friend’s wife passed away a little over a month ago from cancer (*cough* fully vaxxed and boosted, cancer spread like wildfire). They were supposed to have the funeral this weekend in Missouri so it would time out for their son’s college spring break. I wasn’t going because I didn’t feel up to traveling, and honestly, I have been to my share of funerals already for this year. They either canceled or delayed the funeral because…friend got married yesterday. I am reminded of the line from Hamlet, “The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables…” except it’s now the other way around, assuming they still plan to have a funeral. He wants me to congratulate him, and I’m not going to do it, this is way, way too fast. I can’t imagine what the poor kid is going through, steeling himself to attend his mom’s funeral and end up getting a stepmom instead. Holy crap! I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

  23. Yeah that goes a little harder than just bad optics.

  24. Yikes was he dating her while his wife was in a hospice bed?


  25. I have never noticed the clock function on this site.

    But if I missed Hotspur’s birthday I hope it’s not too late to wish that old coot a great year.

  26. Aww, what a cute trans-mushroom!

  27. I never cared for ACDC. All their songs sound the same and somebody lied to that poor guy and told him he could sing.

  28. Sobek, is what’s happening in this song from 1:45 to about 2:00 anywhere close to what you’re talking about?

  29. PG, yeah, that sounds like it, and from my favorite Tom Petty song.

  30. “like the microphone is taped to his face and you hear every inhale.”

    I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I get it. Chino is still awesome. GUNS! KNIVES! RAZORS!

  31. “Daisy Pepper’s bass has 5 strings. WHAT IS GOING ON?”

    Standard bass is 4 strings, but 5 is very common. I have a 5-string. You can find 6-strings without too much trouble. Les Claypool of Primus played one on Sailing the Seas of Cheese and elsewhere.

  32. Making split pea soup, decided I wanted chopped parsnips in there with the carrots.

    When I got out to the greenhouse, all the little parsnips from last Fall had started sprouting tops, so I had to harvest all of them before they get woody cores inside. Got about a half bag of nice 6″-8″ baby parsnips. While there I noticed the turnips and tatsoi was sending up those little broccolini-florets that I like, so I snapped a few of those off too. The ground is more dry and it looks like slugtopia is pretty much done.

  33. “…steeling himself to attend his mom’s funeral and end up getting a stepmom instead.”

    Um wut?

  34. “You will never be a real mushroom.”

    True, but still adorbs.

  35. “I never cared for ACDC. All their songs sound the same and somebody lied to that poor guy and told him he could sing.”

    ACDC has an amazing guitarist and some other guys.

  36. Scott is smoking the pork loin that I cured for canadian bacon this past week. I saved and cured a big slab of the fat cap with attached meat to smoke along with it. That will get frozen and make a nice pot of beans at some time in the future.

  37. Romacita, I had to re-read your comment in order to really understand that you meant to write what you did. Holy shit.
    Literally not in the ground yet. Well, now you know. But damn. Bizarre, how could he think people would be happy for him?

    Scott is like, “Does that seem too soon?” lol

  38. Mrs C would have to have been dead for years and Possum would have to tell me I looked lonely before I’d even consider dating again. How unseemly.

  39. Demonstrates a lot about this other woman’s character as well. I hope the kid is grown and can choose to not spend time with this person.

  40. “I’m sick to death of people saying we’ve made 11 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we’ve made 12 albums that sound exactly the same.” ―Angus Young (AC/DC)

  41. college spring break, nm

  42. Sobek=Pixy. I love their posts, but I barely understand them. HBBD Hotspur.

  43. Power went out nearly an hour ago. Just as I was about to make lunch. Grrrrr.

  44. Ah, now I understand what happened at SVB:

  45. I skip Pixy’s posts. No freaking clue what’s going on there.

  46. Mitchell, that was great. Especially the app.

  47. *Invents MomRank*

    *Retires to private island*

  48. Yikes was he dating her while his wife was in a hospice bed?

    I looked back through Faceplant posts, wife got sick sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas (told ya, it went like wildfire), so I’m guessing an affair before or incredibly bad snap judgment.

    My dad remarried just over a year after Mom died. That was still a little soon, but at least it was a year.

  49. On a happier note, since Tuesday is Pi Day, I made cottage pie and buttermilk coconut pie for Rocketboy, DIL, and Godson #1. I left something out of the cottage pie, the gravy wasn’t as good as it normally is, but the coconut pie was fantastic. I bought eggs from a co-worker, and the yolks were a wonderfully rich yellow.

  50. Earlier Janet Yellen: No bailout.

  51. So excited for my chickens to be delivered.

    Anyway, I am making plans on building my coop, and I like doing things at least 85% or more correctly, so I’m watching videos on basic wall framing. Up comes this video with this old guy built like a rickety scarecrow, and he’s teaching framing while sinking 16 penny nails in almost a single blow, and saying, “If you have a nail gun, it’ll be even faster,” making me chuckle because I can’t believe how fast he’s doing this by hand.

    Turns out he was 80 y/o when he made this video and he died back in 2011.

    Reminded me of my grandfather, carting wheelbarrows of bricks and mortar in the summer sun to build my mom’s front walk and steps, when he was in his 70’s.

    They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

  52. Oh, I can’t believe I forgot this one. Lumps linked this video last week:

    The car alarm is a static pedal point because it literally can’t change notes (unless it drives away from you and you get doppler shift, I guess). So the pianist has limited note options to stay in key with the alarm, but exploits that fact by allowing the tension of dissonance and then resolving back to key.

  53. Woo hoo! I picked the Nascar winner. He took the lead on the very last lap and turned a $5 bet into a $75 payout.

  54. 💰

  55. Signature Bank of New York closed by state authorities.
    This is fine. Everything is fine.

  56. We need to print more money.

  57. APMEX sent a text tonight that read: “Due to recent banking developments, APMEX is experiencing record weekend volume. Shop now while supplies last!”

    Gold and silver prices weren’t too inflated compared with when I looked sometime last week. That may change as the week progresses.

  58. I don’t really care about the Academy Awards, but I would like to see “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” win Best Song. Not because I really like the song, but I thought the movie was a lot of fun and better than anything else, other than Top Gun Maverick, out of Hollyweird last year.

    Anyone see “All Quiet on the Western Front”? Is it worth the time?

  59. Glad I got some cash from the bank last week, I shudder to think what’s going to happen tomorrow.

  60. Our Vet (Doctor Rachel) goes to the same CrossFit gym as Paula so she sees her a lot. Rachel told her that our name came up in the office last week when they were trying to re-home a dog. An older couple had a female cattle dog who they couldn’t exercise and she was getting chunky. They realized we were crazy but not insane and there was no way we wanted a fourth. It’s touch and go with three as it is.

  61. Oh, there’s a name I haven’t seen in a while. Barney Frank is on the board of Signature Bank.

  62. How is that ancient rump ranger still alive?

  63. Whump whanger.

  64. MMM scheduled in case I oversleep before starting the DST Monday.

  65. Power came back after four. Internet took a couple more hours because the same tree that took out the transformer fucked it over to. Fuck my day. Complete waste.

    I’m waiting for the next paycheck, and if my credit union is fucked by all this bullshit so I can’t buy some groceries, I may start burning things.

  66. Well, maybe not complete. But it does feel like the world was screaming “Fuck you” at me most of the day.

    Oh well. Next weekend is a three day weekend. Maybe it will be less frustrating.

  67. Sympathies, BroTim. I’m really nervous about an outage here. All the chicks could freeze.

  68. Dana enlarged Ronald’s photos.

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