In an analysis of Haydn's "Piano Variations in F minor" my student has used the term "pedals" to describe the first 3 Es of the piece in the top line/right hand...and also the 3 Fs at the end of bar 2. I can see that they are not pedal points as the changing harmony does not create dissonance, but is there any other term that can be used here?

  • 2
    Aren't those 3 'Es' 'Cs'? Pivot points?
    – Tim
    Mar 13, 2020 at 13:12
  • Ah, I was aware of pivot chords when modulating but hadn't come across the concept of pivot points/tones before. Yes, I can see that now, thanks Tim!
    – John MC
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:43
  • Just saw this definition: "Pivot tone - A single tone that is common to two keys and serves as a link from one to the other." Can tones that link 2 chords also be considered pivot tones, or should a modulation be involved?
    – John MC
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:49
  • Are you asking about beat 2 of bar 1 - dotted figure - to beat 2 of bar 2 in the right hand? Mar 13, 2020 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


Common tones. That's the standard word for a note that is common to two (or more) harmonies and is usually held/sustained/repeated when moving between two (or more) harmonies. In most usage, it's a term that's reserved for voice-leading strategies (e.g., "hold on to the common tone between the chord and move the other notes in reverse direction to the bass"), but it really just means a note held in common.

Just to clarify a few things from comments: A pedal tone is not necessarily dissonant. It sometimes can become dissonant, but it doesn't have to be, particularly if it is just a note held for a longer period as harmony changes. That would still be a "common tone," but a note that hangs around in the same register for a long time could be called a "pedal" as well. (The repeated F in this case might barely qualify for that description, though I don't know it's present long enough that I'd call it a "pedal.")

And as for pivot tone or pivot point, those generally reference modulations. They particularly tend to apply to modulations where there is no "pivot chord"/"common chord," either because the entire texture drops out and no other tones are sustained during a modulatory transition or in a case where there is no common chord that connects the two keys (e.g., if a C were held as a piece moved from F major to A-flat major, and perhaps then to A minor, with the single note C being the primary connecting thread, even among remote key connections).

Note: I see the question has been edited, but I'm still not sure where the "first 3 Es" are.

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