You are never alone … with a Drone!

You are never alone … with a Drone!

A Drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece.

One of the first songs I heard with a drone is Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles, it appears on the Revolver album. This song has a static C chord all the way through.

 

In his book “Many Years From Now,” Paul remembers:  “John got his guitar out and started doing ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and it was all on one chord.  This was because of our interest in Indian music.  We would be sitting around and at the end of an Indian album we’d go, ‘Did anyone realize they didn’t change chords?’  It would be like ‘Sh*t, it was all in E!  Wow, man, that is pretty far out.’  So we began to sponge up a few of these nice ideas.”

 

Drones on the guitar are often used for riffs, they can also be used to thicken up a simple guitar solo.

The easiest way to get started is to play a drone on one of the lower strings and then play a melody on the next string up. These ideas are often played on the strings tuned in fourths – the intervals are different on the G/B string combination.

Here’s a basic diagram showing some of the sweet notes for the common  D/G string combination:-

 

Drone chord tones

 

The idea is that the open D string is kept ringing, while a melody is played on the G string. For example see the video to learn a version of the main riff from Love Will Tear Us Apart Here

 

  • Playing the flat 7 and hammering on to the octave root is a good sound
  • Use the 3 and then then the 4 for a sus4 sound.
  • Obviously the open D string and the 5 makes a D5 power chord.

 

The power of this idea is that you can play any note you want against the drone, it is up to you if you like the sound or not. Let your ears guide you.

 

  • These sorts of ideas can also sound great with a bit of palm muting.

 

Song Examples

  1. Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) – the bass line uses a drone for the main riff – see Here
  2. She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult) – if you were to use the notes in the diagram above, starting on the 14th fret  – then you would be halfway to working out the main riff.
  3. Substitue (The Who) – The intro to this song uses triads on the top 3 strings against a droning open D string
  4. Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles) – an example of a full on arrangement around a drone chord
  5. Lightning Bolt (Jake Bugg) – uses a high E string drone to fatten up the guitar solo on the B string (uses the open B string, and frets 3 and 5)
  6. 2-4-6-8 Motorway (Tom Robinson Band) – a high E string drone can be used through the basic chord structure – but it is best used judiciously. See Here
  7. Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne) – The verse uses triads on the middle 3 strings against an A string drone.

 

So have a play and have fun.

 

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