Is there a music theory term to describe when a melody revolves around one key repeated note?

For example, in a piece I am playing, the melody is: F C G C Ab C Bb C. Or, in my version of "spatial awareness" ( an exercise a lot of front ensembles seem to play) , we play a blues scale, but we play a C in between each note of the scale (Eb C F C F# C G C Bb C and so on).

So, in both of those situations, what would that C be called, if anything?

  • 3
    I'm not sure what you mean by "revolves around". What is the key signature of this melody? Perhaps you are referring to the tonic note of the key.
    – user1044
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 4:01
  • The word "revolving" in the original question might be misleading, if it really is an alternating and non-sustained note then I've always known these as pedal tones. So I've gone for Dom's answer.
    – Andy
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 9:18

2 Answers 2


Depending on how you are using it, pedal point/tone or drone may be the right terms for it.

A pedal point is typically a sustained bass note where the melody changes over it, but it can also be a repeated note between itself and other notes as shown in the example below similar to what you describe.


A drone is very similar in nature, however it is more to establish tonality and typically will be throughout an entire piece or section where as a pedal point is typically much shorter in nature.


The “central tone” of your examples is either the root tone of the key tonic or the dominant:

For example, in a piece I am playing, the melody is: F C G C Ab C Bb C.

This is the scale of f-minor (F,G,Ab,Bb,C) and it’s always turning to the 5th as changing tone, very usual in Baroque era, but also known in Classic music as Alberti Basses.

Eb C F C F# C G C Bb C

This is a typical Blues pattern:

The root of the tonic of your Blues Scale can be considered as pedal tone like another answer says.

You may also know Odyssea Beneziana by Rondo Veneziano

enter image description here

Both features occurred already in the modes of Plain chant:

The recitation tone, the repercussion note, the repercussa, the tenor, the tuba, or even the psalmodization sound is an important structural tone within the church modes.

In addition to the basic tone, the finalis, in the medieval tones systems there is always another tone, the recitative tone, a role in the melodic progression. This sound is usually achieved at an early stage within a melodic section, and it is played more often than other tones. In the psalm tones, the recitative tone is the tone on which much of the psalm text is recited.



Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.