Audio: drone (0:16)
drone plays a drone harmony. The drone figure shows the score:
A drone is a repeated note.
A drone is the simplest possible harmony. It can be played as a continuous sustained note, as in the bagpipes example in drone, or as a series of different sustained notes, as in the example with the synths.
The purpose of a drone is repetition and reinforcement. The drone note is often the tonic note of the key. Popular alternatives include the fifth degree of the scale and the fourth.
Quite a few musical instruments have a built-in drone. The Great Highland Bagpipe, a majestic instrument with a stunning sound, has three drones all tuned to the tonic in the key of A mixolydian. The banjo has a distinctive sound arising from a fixed drone string tuned to the tonic, occasionally the fifth, of the key. A sitar has six or seven playable strings, three of which are drones, and 11-13 sympathetic strings which are not plucked but resonate with the melody and act as a sort of drone accompaniment. The hurdy-gurdy has a sound as wonderful as its name. It has two pairs of drone strings, each pair is tuned to unison and octave, and the pairs are a fifth apart. The zither is a versatile drone instrument whose strings cover every note in the chromatic scale.