Drone (music)

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In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. A drone may also be any part of a musical instrument used to produce this effect; an archaic term for this is burden (bourdon or burdon) [1] [2] such as a "drone [pipe] of a bagpipe", [3] [4] the pedal point in an organ, or the lowest course of a lute. Α burden is also part of a song that is repeated at the end of each stanza, such as the chorus or refrain. [5]

Contents

Musical effect

"Of all harmonic devices, it [a drone] is not only the simplest, but probably also the most fertile." [6]

A drone effect can be achieved through a sustained sound or through repetition of a note. It most often establishes a tonality upon which the rest of the piece is built. A drone can be instrumental, vocal or both. Drone (both instrumental and vocal) can be placed in different ranges of the polyphonic texture: in the lowest part, in the highest part, or in the middle. The drone is most often placed upon the tonic or dominant (play "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with a drone on the Loudspeaker.svg tonic  , on the Loudspeaker.svg dominant  , or on Loudspeaker.svg both  . Compare with Loudspeaker.svg changing chords  .). A drone on the same pitch as a melodic note tends to both hide that note and to bring attention to it by increasing its importance.

A drone differs from a pedal tone or point in degree or quality. A pedal point may be a form of nonchord tone and thus required to resolve unlike a drone, or a pedal point may simply be considered a shorter drone, a drone being a longer pedal point.

History and distribution

A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735. A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.

The systematic use of drones originated in instrumental music of ancient Southwest Asia, and spread north and west to Europe, east to India, and south to Africa. [7] It is used in Indian music and is played with the tanpura (or tambura) and other Indian drone instruments like the ottu, the ektar, the dotara (or dotar; dutar in Persian Central Asia), the surpeti, the surmandal (or swarmandal) and the shankh (conch shell). Most of the types of bagpipes that exist worldwide have up to three drones, making this one of the first instruments that comes to mind when speaking of drone music. In America, most forms of the African-influenced banjo contain a drone string. Since the 1960s, the drone has become a prominent feature in drone music and other forms of avant-garde music.

In vocal music drone is particularly widespread in traditional musical cultures, particularly in Europe, Polynesia and Melanesia. It is also present in some isolated regions of Asia (like among Pearl-divers in the Persian Gulf, some national minorities of South-West China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Afghanistan). [8] [ page needed ]

Part(s) of a musical instrument

Highland bagpipes, with drone pipes over the pipers' left shoulders Golowan Festival Penzance June 2005 Mid-Argyl band2.jpg
Highland bagpipes, with drone pipes over the pipers' left shoulders

Drone is also the term for the part of a musical instrument intended to produce the drone effect's sustained pitch, generally without the ongoing attention of the player. Different melodic Indian instruments (e.g. the sitar, the sarod, the sarangi and the rudra veena) contain a drone. For example, the sitar features three or four resonating drone strings, and Indian notes (sargam) are practiced to a drone. Bagpipes (like the Great Highland Bagpipe and the Zampogna) feature a number of drone pipes, giving the instruments their characteristic sounds. A hurdy-gurdy has one or more drone strings. The fifth string on a five-string banjo is a drone string with a separate tuning peg that places the end of the string five frets down the neck of the instrument; this string is usually tuned to the same note as that which the first string produces when played at the fifth fret, and the drone string is seldom fretted. The bass strings of the Slovenian drone zither also freely resonate as a drone. The Welsh Crwth also features two drone strings.

Melody to "Yankee Doodle" without and with drone notes as played on the banjo Play without (help*info)
and with drone (help*info)
. Banjo drone in Yankee Doodle.png
Melody to "Yankee Doodle" without and with drone notes as played on the banjo Loudspeaker.svg Play without   and Loudspeaker.svg with drone  .

Use in musical compositions

Composers of Western classical music occasionally used a drone (especially one on open fifths) to evoke a rustic or archaic atmosphere, perhaps echoing that of Scottish or other early or folk music. Examples include the following:

The best-known drone piece in the concert repertory is the Prelude to Wagner's Das Rheingold (1854) wherein low horns and bass instruments sustain an E throughout the entire movement. [10] The atmospheric ostinato effect that opens Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which inspired similar gestures in the opening of all the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, represents a gesture derivative of drones.

One consideration for composers of common practice keyboard music was equal temperament. The adjustments lead to slight mistunings as heard against a sustained drone. Even so, drones have often been used to spotlight dissonance purposefully.

Modern concert musicians make frequent use of drones, often with just or other non-equal tempered tunings. Drones are a regular feature in the music of composers indebted to the chant tradition, such as Arvo Pärt, Sofia Gubaidulina, and John Tavener. The single-tones that provided the impetus for minimalism through the music of La Monte Young and many of his students qualify as drones. David First, the band Coil, the early experimental compilations of John Cale ( Sun Blindness Music , Dream Interpretation, and Stainless Gamelan ), Pauline Oliveros and Stuart Dempster, Alvin Lucier ( Music On A Long Thin Wire ), Ellen Fullman, Lawrence Chandler and Arnold Dreyblatt all make notable use of drones. The music of Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi is essentially drone-based. Shorter drones or the general concept of a continuous element are often used by many other composers. Other composers whose music is entirely based on drones include Charlemagne Palestine and Phill Niblock. The Immovable Do by Percy Grainger contains a sustained high C (heard in the upper woodwinds) that lasts for the entirety of the piece. Drone pieces also include Loren Rush's Hard Music (1970) [11] and Folke Rabe's Was?? (1968), [12] as well as Robert Erickson's Down at Piraeus. [13] The avant-garde guitarist Glenn Branca also used drones extensively. French singer Camille uses a continuous B throughout her album Le_Fil.

Drones continue to be characteristic of folk music. Early songs by Bob Dylan employ the effect with a retuned guitar in "Masters of War" and "Mr. Tambourine Man".[ citation needed ] The song "You Will Be My Ain True Love", written by Sting for the 2003 movie Cold Mountain and performed by Alison Krauss and Sting, uses drone bass.[ citation needed ]

Drones are used widely in the blues and blues-derived genres. Jerry Lee Lewis featured drones in solos and fills. [14] Drones were virtually absent in original rock and roll music,[ citation needed ] but gained popularity after the Beatles used drones in a few popular compositions (for example, "Blackbird" has a drone in the middle of a texture throughout the whole song, "Tomorrow Never Knows" makes use of tambura). They also used high drone for the dramatic effect in some sections of several of their compositions (like the last verses of "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby").[ citation needed ] The rock band U2 uses drones in their compositions particularly widely.[ citation needed ] In the Led Zeppelin song "In The Light", a keyboard drone is used throughout the song, mostly in the intro.[ citation needed ]

Use for musical training

Drones are used by a number of music education programs for ear training and pitch awareness, as well as a way to improvise ensemble music. [15] A shruti box is often used by vocalists in this style of musical training. Drones, owing to their acoustic properties and following their longstanding use in ritual and chant, can be useful in constructing aural structures outside common practice expectations of harmony and melody. [16] [ verification needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

The banjo is a stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity to form a resonator. The membrane is typically circular, and usually made of plastic, or occasionally animal skin. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by African-Americans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk and country music, and has also been used in some rock songs. Several rock bands, such as the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Along with the fiddle, the banjo is a mainstay of American styles of music, such as Bluegrass and old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

Clavichord Musical instrument

The clavichord is a Western European stringed rectangular keyboard instrument that was used largely in the Late Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was mostly used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces sound by striking brass or iron strings with small metal blades called tangents. Vibrations are transmitted through the bridge(s) to the soundboard.

Harp Stringed musical instrument

The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps can be made and played in various ways, including standing or sitting and in orchestras or concerts. Its most common form is triangular in shape and made of wood. Some have multiple rows of strings and pedal attachments.

Musical tuning Terms for tuning an instrument and a systems of pitches

In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:

Piano Musical instrument

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

String instrument Class of musical instruments with vibrating strings

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Sitar Plucked stringed instrument used in Hindustani classical music

The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent, used in Hindustani classical music. The instrument was invented in medieval India and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in 18th-century India.

Zither Class of stringed musical instruments

Zither is a class of stringed instruments. Historically, the name has been applied to any instrument of the psaltery family, or to an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body. This article describes the latter variety.

Clawhammer

Clawhammer, sometimes called frailing, is a distinctive banjo playing style and a common component of American old-time music.

Capo Common tool for players of guitars and other stringed instruments

A capo is a device a musician uses on the neck of a stringed instrument to transpose and shorten the playable length of the strings—hence raising the pitch. It is a common tool for players of guitars, mandolins, mandolas, banjos, ukuleles and bouzoukis. The word derives from the Italian capotasto, which means the nut of a stringed instrument. The earliest known use of capotasto is by Giovanni Battista Doni who, in his Annotazioni of 1640, uses it to describe the nut of a viola da gamba. The first patented capo was designed by James Ashborn of Wolcottville, Connecticut year 1850.

<i>Bağlama</i> Stringed musical instrument

The bağlama is a stringed musical instrument.

A pull-off is a stringed instrument playing and articulation technique performed by plucking or "pulling" the finger that is grasping the sounding part of a string off the fingerboard of either a fretted or unfretted instrument. This intermediate- to advanced playing technique is done using the tip of a finger or fingernail on the fretting hand. Pull-offs are done to facilitate the playing of embellishments and ornaments such as grace notes. Pull-offs may be notated in sheet music or improvised by the performer, depending on the musical style and context.

Appalachian dulcimer fretted string instrument

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings, originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

In music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing tones. However, the pedal point is unique among non-chord tones, "in that it begins on a consonance, sustains through another chord as a dissonance until the harmony", not the non-chord tone, "resolves back to a consonance".

Fingerstyle guitar

Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking. The term "fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking except in classical guitar circles, although fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues and country guitar playing in the US. The terms "fingerstyle" and "fingerpicking" also applied to similar string instruments such as the banjo.

Tamburica or Tamboura refers to a family of long-necked lutes popular in Southern Europe and Central Europe, especially Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary. It is also known in Burgenland. All took their name and some characteristics from the Persian tanbur but also resemble the mandolin and guitar in the sense that its strings are plucked and often paired. The frets may be moveable to allow the playing of various modes. The variety of tamburica shapes known today were developed in Serbia and Croatia by a number of indigenous contributors near the end of the 19th century.

Guitar tunings

Guitar tunings are the assignment of pitches to the open strings of guitars, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and classical guitars. Tunings are described by the particular pitches that are made by notes in Western music. By convention, the notes are ordered and arranged from the lowest-pitched string to the highest-pitched string, or the thickest string to thinnest, or the lowest frequency to the highest. This sometimes confuses beginner guitarists, since the highest-pitched string is referred to as the 1st string, and the lowest-pitched is the 6th string.

Chorus is an audio effect that occurs when individual sounds with approximately the same time, and very similar pitches, converge and are perceived as one. While similar sounds coming from multiple sources can occur naturally, as in the case of a choir or string orchestra, it can also be simulated using an electronic effects unit or signal processing device.

The çifteli is a plucked string instrument, with only two strings, played mainly by the Gheg people of northern and central Albania, Southern Montenegro, parts of North Macedonia and Kosovo.

Balkan tambura

The tambura is a stringed instrument that is played as a folk instrument in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Serbia. It has doubled steel strings and is played with a plectrum, in the same manner as a mandolin.

References

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  2. Brown, John (1816). Encyclopaedia Perthensis; Or Universal Dictionary of the Arts, Sciences, Literature, &c. Intended to Supersede the Use of Other Books of Reference, Volume 4, p.487. 2nd edition. [ISBN unspecified].
  3. Lloyd, Edward (1896). Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary: A New and Original Work of Reference to the Words in the English Language, Volume 1 , p.743. [ISBN unspecified].
  4. Wedgwood, H. (1859). A dictionary of English etymology, p.210. Рипол Классик. ISBN   9785874642921.
  5. Brabner, John H F., ed. (1884). The national encyclopædia , Vol. V, p.99. Libr. ed. William McKenzie. [ISBN unspecified].
  6. Peter van der Merwe (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music, p.65. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN   0-19-316121-4.
  7. van der Merwe (1989), p.11.
  8. Joseph Jordania (2006). Who Asked the First Question? The Origins of Human Choral Singing, Intelligence, Language and Speech. Tbilisi: Logos. ISBN   99940-31-81-3.
  9. Erbsen, Wayne (2004). Bluegrass Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus, p.13. ISBN   1-883206-44-8.
  10. Erickson, Robert (1976). Sound Structure in Music, p.94. University of California Press. ISBN   0-520-02376-5.
  11. Erickson 1976, p. 104.
  12. Erickson 1976, p. 95 & 104.
  13. Erickson 1976, p. 97.
  14. Harrison, Mark (2003). Blues Piano: Hal Leonard Keyboard Style Series, [unpaginated]. Hal Leonard. ISBN   9781476816036.
  15. Oshinsky, James (January 2008). Return to Child - Music for People's Guide to Improvising Music and Authentic Group Leadership (Second ed.).
  16. Clint Goss (2011). "Reference Drones". Flutopedia. Retrieved 2011-11-08.

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Burden". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1st ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.