Drone (music)

The term drone ( v. French: bourdon [ buʁdõ ], Italian: bordone, as much as " Brummbass " ), in popular music also Drone ( from the English word for drone ) denotes

Musical Features

Drone called a sustained note which sounds to accompany a melody. The drone is a very long time already known, simple style of polyphony dar. In the vocal music of the drone is also called Ison.

As drone the keynote of the respective key is usually used or the perfect fifth to the tonic. Sometimes heard both tones simultaneously as so-called Bordunquinte (eg market bagpipe: drones A e ⁰, melody on the root A). A variation is to be the keynote, sounding as second drone its lower fourth, so the moved one octave downward perfect fifth to the tonic (eg Hümmelchen, drones c ⁰ ⁰ f, melody on the root F). Other tones and combinations of tones are as drone possible and in use, as the great and minor third ( usually together with the root and fifth ), the minor seventh (usually alone, such as Great Highland Bagpipe: drones A a ⁰ a ⁰, melody on H- aeolian ) or the major ninth ( usually together with the fifth, eg market bagpipe: drones A e ⁰, melody on the root D). The drones of the bagpipe and the drone of the hurdy-gurdy form a typical element in the sound of these instruments.

Well-known melodies that are suitable for a bourdon accompaniment are, for example, the song " So we are pushing winter out " ( Dorian ) and the march " Scotland the Brave " ( Mixolydian ).

  • Out the winter? / I
  • Scotland the brave? / I

Between the melody tones and the drone there is a constant interplay of dissonant friction and konsonantem euphony, creating a harmonious coloring of its own unique charm arises.

European drone moves mainly in keys with the same tonal center, ie in the same key change keys and modes, or in keys and modes, where the drone is the fifth of the tonal center. Further modulations lead to strong dissonance with the unchanged drone.

Instruments with drone have a mood that is geared to their drone, which can lead to intonation problems when playing together with rigid instruments intoned, especially if the music from the tonal center. The intonation of instruments with drone is usually a pure or meantone without closed circle of fifths or equal tempered tuning as KirnBerger II


The musical practice of the drone is distributed worldwide. It is found in many European musical traditions, as from north Germany to Tirol, in the Brittany region of central France, in Scotland, Scandinavia, north-west Spain, southern Italy, Bohemia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and in most other Eastern European countries.

But even in non-European cultures, such as in Indian music, is played with the drone. There, however, he is more of a Liegeton to the melody creates a sense of distance with no harmonic significance.

In the classical music of the drone is only restrained element used. Prominent examples: the entire prelude to Rheingold is highlighted in one drone. In the Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky is heard throughout the piece a rhythmic drone with numerous Quint sounds, creating a medieval atmosphere is created.

The Old Castle (beginning)? / I

But also for references to the country life but drones are used in the predominant case only for a few bars. Thus one hears in the 6th Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven several times such audible information. At the start of the fifth set ( Shepherd's Song ), for example, heard at the same two Bordunquinten in the violas ( cg ) and the cellos (fc).

Fifth sentence: Shepherd's Song (early ) / i?

Quite different is the function of sustained bass note in the last two and a half cycles with Johann Sebastian Bach's Fugue in C minor from the Well- Tempered Clavier. This so-called pedal point is the final increase and, interestingly, at the same time also the final pacification of the song.

Since the mid-twentieth century, we find the drone with increasing frequency as a characteristic or even dominant element in some experimental genres of popular music. This has led to the creation of several subgenres in which drones / Drones are essential (eg in the Ambient) or even the only or main musical element present, as in the Drone Doom, a sub-form of Doom Metal, or, especially in the Drone a subgenre of ambient and dark ambient.

Instruments with built-in drone

In various musical instruments, such as

  • Bordunzithern bumblebee
  • Scherr Zither
  • Raffele
  • Epinette
  • Nyckelharpa

There are strings or pipes, whose sole function is to produce a drone. These stringed instruments and organs are referred to colloquially as drones, are precisely the terms and drone drone string. Drones are also " Brummer " called.

Irish bagpipes, the uilleann pipes, except have the " drone " or " Regulators", with which one can change the harmonic foundation of the music during the game.

In a broader sense, also based

On drones. Here on the unchanged fundamental ( drone ) is produced the tune in the overtones.

In the five-string banjo, the high Chanterelle is mostly used on-board dissimilar.

Church bells

As Bourdon is known in French-speaking countries, the largest bell of a large Geläuts, such as the Bourdon Emmanuel at Notre- Dame de Paris. The usually several -ton bell can stand in marked pitch interval to the next higher bells. After campanologischer definition Bourdon must be below the one-lined octave. Depending on the disposition may therefore in some peals several Bourdons co-exist ( for example, in the cathedral of Sens or the Cathedral of Nantes).