How to play a drone guitar

Playing a melody or solo on a “drone” means playing only one note, and in some cases one chord. Not only does it play without harmonic accompaniment, it’s a simple concept that you can imagine, and the possibilities are endless. We will look at how to use drones in a variety of situations, from ancient to modern, from blues to metal, from tradition to experimentation.

Standard tuning drone

One of the simplest forms of accompaniment, the drone is one of the oldest. Before harmony, there was a drone. Original. 1 Emphasizes the ancient nature of drones TaksimImprovisation, which often precedes the performance of traditional Middle Eastern compositions. In this example, you only have to hit the lower sixth string, which is sometimes open, to keep the drone moving. The melody uses notes on the E Phrygian dominant scale (E–F–G # –A–B–C–D).

Bruce is full of drone examples. Especially with the performances of Lightnin’Hopkins (“Big Mama Jump”), John Lee Hooker (“Bottle Up and Go”), and Big Bill Broonzy (“Hey Hay”). Original. 2 It is based on Lightnin’Hopkins’ so-called “deadsome blues” approach. Keep hitting that low open E string.

John Lee Hooker-“Bottle Up & Go”

Original. 3 In honor of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”. From 0:43, Jimi plays a nice mixolydian melody in the octave, and the bassline emphasizes the low E. In this case, the low E-string uses the drone instead of the bass, and there is a melody inspired by Jimi.

Original. Four It also has a classic rock reference point, in this case the Rolling Stones’ Moonlight Mile. The timeless song, and the example itself, both feature a drone open string with a melody that moves up and down the neck. In the case of “Moonlight”, the guitar riff is the base of Jaguar’s vocal melody, creating a pseudo-eastern atmosphere.

An unexpected model has appeared since the 1980s. Original. Five Emulates the police song “Contact”, with the second instrument playing the drone (bass guitar playing G overall). The bass plays a stable eighth note, while the guitar 1 plays four different arpeggio patterns. This means different chords in every bar. Guitar 2 plays a simple melodic line, if syncopated, on both the drone and the arpeggio. Other police songs featuring one-note-based drones are “Reggatta De Blanc” and the very disturbing “A Kind of Loving.”

Reggatta de Blanc

Drop D drone

Drop-D tuning (and other alternative tunings) allows players to incorporate a variety of tones into their drone. Original. 6 Partially inspired by the Call and Response instrumental section of “With In You, With In You”, where the Beatles featured Indian drones (Indian music is probably the best known of the drone genre). .. This example is unique in that the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings all sound on the drone, creating a D power chord. This illustration mimics the sitar performance by playing the melody with just one string while moving the neck up and down.

Original. 7 Shows one of the most useful aspects of playing with a drone, the ability to change keys. In this case, the drone is maintained by alternating bass with the thumb between the 6th and 4th strings, both tuned to D, even one octave apart. While the thumb drones the bass, the melody of the first few bars is from the D major scale, especially the major 7 (C #), root (D), 3 (F #), and 6 (B). I will play. After this melody is played twice, the key changes to Parallel Minor D Natural Minor. Here, everything except the root note is replaced with flat pitches b7 (C), b3 (F), and Bb (b6). Don’t let that theory overwhelm you. Instead, listen aggressively and tell your ears that you have made a clear transition from major (happy or bright) mode to minor (sad and dark) mode. It is the simplicity of the one-note drone that makes this key change smooth.

Unusual alternative tuning

Undoubtedly, the easiest way to get a guitar drone is to play it in a different tuning. You can hear this approach from Robbie Basho to Glenn Branca, from Sonic Youth to My Bloody Valentine, and many others. The Velvet Underground is one of the first to derive such mileage from unusual tunings, especially “ostrich tuning” that tunes all strings to the same note (though the octaves are different).

Original. 8 A homage to the Velvet Underground drone “Lady Godiva’s Operation”. In my example, I’m using tuning C–C–C–C–C–C. For more information on this tuning, see my lesson, Punk Rock Madness: More than Power Chords.

Finally, if you don’t mention the drone metal scene, your drone lessons won’t complete. There are several bands referenced here, dating back decades.For Original. 9 I chose to hint at Sunn O))) and the work “It Tok the Night to Believe”. This is a radical piece in which the lower 6th string is tuned to A. This is a ridiculously low note. Consider wearing a heavier gauge string in this style. This example also includes tremolo picking. This isn’t too difficult when playing one note, but it can be difficult to maintain tone and consistency when adding a second melodic note in bar 9. Annoying distortion / fuzz pedals to complete the sound.

Drone on

As you know, there are endless possibilities when it comes to drones. And while the idea may have existed for thousands of years, new approaches are still being developed and deployed (with many examples, drones in the classic realm, or krautrock). Did not discuss). I hope this lesson will inspire you to invent some of your own methods.

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