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Bill N

When and how to use a drone?

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My new concertina (C/G) came with a low D drone on a lever for the left thumb.  I've never had a drone before and am enjoying fooling around with it, but maybe the results aren't as enjoyable for the other members of my household!

 

I'd appreciate any advice from others about how and when to use this new bit of musical kit.  I'm a "by ear" player, and play mostly traditional dance tunes from England, Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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I think lifting off a drone, maybe during  interesting bits elsewhere,  sounds good.

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My sixpence worth :

I am certain that there are many expert players out there who have an excellent grasp on the use of a drone ( sing out folks ! )

i use my D drone to either “reinforce “ my low D , play Big D chords and very occasionally actually as a drone , an example would be 

on the B part of a tune , just hang on the drone as you start or end a phrase.

Ive also heard the drone used to great effect on a slow air .

hope that’s useful, enjoy your new concertina.

M

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Bagpipe tunes are designed to work with drones.

 

Steve

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A little can go a long way.  I think drones are most effective when used to provide a contrast rather than as the main feature, although this can depend on the tune.  I sometimes start off a tune with just a drone accompaniment and then bring in chords the next time through.

 

I suggest cross-rowing as much as possible In order to sustain the drone without breaking it up any more than can be avoided.  Frequent bellows changes will disrupt the drone effect even if you are still playing the same note.  Try to change bellows direction at a point where where the interruption to the drone can reinforce rather than disrupt the effect, such as the end of a phrase, or at least on a firm beat in the music. However, as Wunks has suggested, deliberately lifting off the drone at times can also be effective.

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Hi Bill..............I'm very excited to see your new anglo.

     Drones..............I'm not a fan of them for the type of music we play and in fact, for myself, think of them as a lost opportunity to have a note that I can use constantly. ie both the press and draw notes on my left hand thumb button I use in chords.

            But I also realise that is not the information you asked !

Robin

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I'll bring it on Sunday Robin.  I am experimenting with using it as the low D in various chords, which seems pretty useful and promising.  Drone-wise, a little seems to go a long way, and when the drone stops its sudden absence is the dominant sensation.  I'm having more success using it as an 'ending' element, say for the last few phrases of a final B part, rather than starting a phrase with it and then having it drop out.  I'm also finding my thumb is not as dexterous on the lever as I imagined it would be- there are some new synaptic pathways to be forged for that digit!

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I"m hesitant to use my D drone in a session, as I'm still learning my way around it and I don't want to annoy my pals. But last night, the banjo player started in on Julia Delaney's and the accordion player yelled out across the table "heavy breathing!" so she and I droned a fun bass line to the solo banjo. Good times!

 

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Just because it's called a drone, doesn't mean it has to be held down as a drone for extended periods.

 

I have owned 2 concertinas with drones, although none of my current instruments do.

 

I used the drone mainly as just another bass note.  Just as you can use your right thumb for short stabs on the air button, you can use your left thumb for short stabs on the drone button.

 

If you want a drone sound, as in a sustained note underlying the melody, then think in terms of phrases of music.  Don't use it just because you can fit it to a particular set of notes.  Use it for a clearly defined phrase, or just a single bar, now and again, to provide contrast.

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Reading through this thread inspires me to use my Low D drone. Until now I have used it as a pitch reference for piper friends. This is why I know it works. I obviously need to broaden my outlook.

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Drones can be very effective when accompanying some types of vocals or  in a mixed band.  I use mine often when accompanying certain types of vocals- especially minor tunes or when the other instruments are taking a busy break. Stepping back can be quite useful. And any note can be droned. You aren't limited to that one

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That's right Daria!

 

When playing C/G Anglo I can play nice drones even though I don’t have a drone button. Instead of a dedicated drone, my left hand thumb button plays G on the draw (very useful) and C on the push (less useful) so no drone button for me.

 

Still, one nice drone sound I use is to play a tune in C or even just a C scale on the right hand... while also using an additional drone G on the push with the left hand button #5 (Coover system, also called top button middle row). Then when it’s time to draw, I play the same G using button #4a (Coover system, also called second from the top button in the far row). This is a very handy combination using the index finger for push and the middle finger for draw and keeps the G drone going regardless of bellows direction.

 

By using these two buttons and this droney effect you can harmonize whole sections of many tunes in C. For example, try the A part of Donkey Riding in C. Works a treat.

 

Try it with British Grenadiers in C or ...

 

The A part Rakes of Mallow in C or any number of tunes played in the key of C.

 

  • Of course, all of these C tunes are commonly played in G. Another reason to play a G/D Anglo, especially if you are playing in sessions or with fiddles. For solo playing though, it matters not, and tunes in C on the C/G sound grand.

 

Simple droney harmonization using just those two buttons and a few neighboring helper buttons can sound very sweet and full. Add some low notes and it gets really rich.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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