Audio: drone (0:16)

Figure: drone

drone plays a drone harmony. The drone figure shows the score:

  • Bars 1-4:
    • The melody is played on the Great Highland Bagpipe in the key of A mixolydian.
    • The harmony consists of a single extended drone note on the tonic note A.
  • Bars 5-8:
    • The melody is repeated, transposed to C major, and played on a brightness synth.
    • A star theme synth plays a drone harmony in the bass part consisting of the sequence C-G-F-C, representing the tonic, fifth, fourth and first degrees of the scale.

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.