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What's A "drone" Button?


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Sorry if this is a silly question, but was wondering, is e.g. a C/C drone just another button which plays a C note on the push and pull?

 

Or is there something special/different about drone buttons?

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Normally speaking, a drone button is operated by the thumb of the left hand and the only one on an Anglo concertina that plays the same note (most commonly C) on both press and draw. (But I have recently made other buttons on a 38-key Anglo into drones for one player.)

 

It can be used to sound a drone (like bagpipes) when playing a tune in the key that it's tuned to.

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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BThe above post brings back memories of the late Peter Bellamy and his aditional drone buttons in other than thumb position, being operated by locking down a key with a piece of brass (?) attached to an end bolt.

Was your modification a little more sophistocated, Stephen, or a similar principle?

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Sorry if this is a silly question, but was wondering, is e.g. a C/C drone just another button which plays a C note on the push and pull?

 

Or is there something special/different about drone buttons?

 

Yes, that's exactly what it does.

 

Normally speaking, a drone button is operated by the thumb of the left hand...

(emphasis mine)

The origin of the term is from instruments with a button in that location (mirroring the location of the right hand's air button) that plays the same note in both bellows directions, specifically the tonic of the main key (C on a C/G anglo). Being able to hold that button down continuously while leaving all the other fingers free makes it ideal for providing a drone effect without hindering the use of the other fingers. But beware, sometimes a button in that location (where it exists) plays two different notes, yet it's still often referred to as a "drone" button because of its location. (Blame it on "history" or "tradition".) I've also seen a couple of anglos with two smaller, closely spaced buttons in that location, each of which plays a different "drone" note.

 

...and the only one on an Anglo concertina that plays the same note (most commonly C) on both press and draw.

While that's normally true, there have been occasional exceptions, presumably at the request of individual players. The most common (though still rare) that I'm aware of is having the leftmost button of the "accidental" row in the right hand tuned to C# in both directions. But in that (and other, even rarer) instances, I've never heard of such a note/button being referred to as a "drone".

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BThe above post brings back memories of the late Peter Bellamy and his aditional drone buttons in other than thumb position, being operated by locking down a key with a piece of brass (?) attached to an end bolt.

 

Others may have more definite information, but I was under the impression that those other buttons (only one at a time, I believe) weren't tuned to identical notes on push and pull, but each provided a pair of alternating harmony notes as the bellows direction changed. Which button was held down then dictated (or was dictated by) the particular key(s) and modal harmonies Peter would use in a given song.

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Yes Jim, I think you're correct; a different note push and pull, but I would still refer to them as drones, correctly or otherwise, as I believe Peter did in a conversation I had with him many years ago.

 

However, I agree that they were not "drones" in the bagpipe sense if tuned that way, and quite likely Mr Webster/Mr Oxford wouldn't agree either. But I can't think of any other reasonably well understood word or simple expression to describe them.

 

"Alternating harmony notes" doesn't really work for me as, at times, Peter's accompaniment was somewhat unconventional and perhaps more discordant than harmonic imho, but it worked amazingly well in the context of what he did. But then again, ask 5 musicians to define harmony and you would likely get 15 different answers..... :wacko:

Edited by malcolm clapp
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I've also seen a couple of anglos with two smaller, closely spaced buttons in [the left thumb position], each of which plays a different "drone" note.

 

While that's normally true, there have been occasional exceptions, presumably at the request of individual players. The most common (though still rare) that I'm aware of is having the leftmost button of the "accidental" row in the right hand tuned to C# in both directions. But in that (and other, even rarer) instances, I've never heard of such a note/button being referred to as a "drone".

 

 

I've seen a few with two left-thumb drones, and I've seen one Dipper with three! (The center one was a button as normal; the other two were ingenious levers which pushed to the side rather than down, so the thumb didn't really have to move very far to play any of them. Clever, that Colin.)

 

Of course, I've also seen many instruments (including my own) where the left-thumb button makes two different notes (on a C/G concertina, normally F/C, but on mine and on one Jeff Thomas I've played, F#/C). I avoid calling mine a "drone" button because it plays two different notes, but yes, many people have asked "what notes are on your drone?" upon seeing my instrument, suggesting that the word is now somewhat commonly in use to mean "any left-thumb button".

 

The most peculiar drone I've ever heard of, though, is a right-thumb drone -- so the concertina has no air button -- to play a low D (the note one tone up from the very lowest left-hand C on a C/G). I believe this was custom-made by Wally Carroll for Noel Hill, who just really, really wanted that low D (but apparently didn't want to give up the low Bb on the left side, which is where others have sometimes put that note).

 

I see C#/C# on the right-side accidental row often, but I've never heard this particular button called a "drone" when this is done. I believe this is advocated by Noel Hill, and many who attend his school or wish to play like him request this. Most often it's on a Wheatstone layout accidental row, so the accidental row winds up being C#/C# A/G G#/Bb C#/D# A/F (jettisoning the lower D# altogether). But I have seen it on a few Jeffries layout accidental rows, resulting in three identical C#s. (Insert confused-face emoticon here.)

 

I would love to know more about Peter Bellamy's note layout -- I've heard about his extra drone buttons and levers to hold them down, but I've never seen a photograph nor known what notes these buttons played (and what notes they replaced).

Edited by wayman
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The above post brings back memories of the late Peter Bellamy and his aditional drone buttons in other than thumb position, being operated by locking down a key with a piece of brass (?) attached to an end bolt.

Was your modification a little more sophistocated, Stephen, or a similar principle?

 

I did suggest something along Peter Bellamy's lines Malcolm, but my customer was looking more for occasional drones, to be obtained by holding down the desired button as needed, rather than any constant one.

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Yes Jim, I think you're correct; a different note push and pull, but I would still refer to them as drones, correctly or otherwise, as I believe Peter did in a conversation I had with him many years ago.

 

I'd compare them to the mutation on Demian's early 1830's accordions, or the bascules d'harmonie on the French accordions/flutinas that derived from them, which (when open) provide a constant (droning) push/pull harmony.

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