Quite comparable to verbal information, the beginning of musical phrase directs our attention and provides the first elements on the basis of which the meaning starts to form. After just several words/notes we do not yet have a clear idea in which direction the phrase will go, thus our expectation related to the coming words/notes will allow many possibilities. Before the phrase is terminated, we might change our mind several times about what is being said (which musical patterns we hear). Redefining meaning happens often in music. A particular tone could at first be felt to be a part of one grouping pattern, and later reconsidered and understood as a part of another pattern. Implicitly, what is at first heard as deviation could later be understood as a part of a known pattern (which we couldn’t anticipate on time). The play with meaning happens also between the levels of musical organization: that what is a logical continuation on one level could be felt as a deviation on another.


The aim of this chapter is to outline a number of drone/pedal-categories, that are, while listening, recognized as such. This ambition implies some doses of abstraction, as it is through generalization of musical experiences that listeners develop the ‘knowledge’ of these categories. While not necessarily on a conscious level, this knowledge provides elements of meaning, which contribute to our aural understanding of pieces that feature pedals and drones. Recognizing a model is implicative. On one hand, it projects various expected relations onto the elements that are considered important for the pedal/drone (according to the model), and raises certain expectations related to the pattern (that is recognized as a model). On the other hand, it projects expectations to other musical events, on the same and higher level of perceived structure. In other words, a pedal/drone model is a pattern that works as a sound term.


A kind of ‘proof’ that these models actually do exist in one’s ears is the situation when the listener recognizes a particular pattern in a piece that does not feature it at all (we consider the pattern being implied). The conclusion could be made that a certain reference takes place, or that the interaction of different actors deceives us, like creating an illusion. To show this I have included several examples, within related chapters.



I will describe a number of models but I am thereby not suggesting that this selection is final. Such a categorization is naturally always open for additions and adjustments. Furthermore, the categories are not exclusive. They are defined here according to what is considered to be their most active parameter. In concrete musical pieces, we shall rarely encounter any ‘pure’ category; in most cases a pedal/drone will have combined properties, and the models that one can recognize in it will most probably interact with each other, assisting or undermining each other’s working.


next: Harmonic Pedal ('default type')