Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

670
Banjo Lovers Online


Jul 28, 2021 - 8:31:16 AM
34 posts since 11/7/2020

Hi all.
Can someone explain to me "Drone Notes" in very simple terms please, and how they are marked out in tab form etc.
As a newcomer to the banjo, today is the first I've come across them in a book.
Thanks,
Fred

Jul 28, 2021 - 9:16:57 AM
likes this

1522 posts since 4/13/2009
Online Now

Drone notes are tones that are repeated, sometimes standing apart from the melody. The fifth string is often described as a drone. Bagpipes employ drone notes.

Jul 28, 2021 - 10:22:27 AM
like this

2614 posts since 4/5/2006

The drone notes produced by bagpipes are constant, whereas the 5th sting note of a 5-string banjo played against a major triad not containing that note, is more often mistakenly referred to as a discord, or some other less flattering name.

Musically speaking, there is no such thing as a discord, it has simply not been properly identified. A common example would be playing the 5th string G note against a D chord. The G note is raising the 3rd interval F# by 1/2 step, producing a suspended 4th. Playing a G note against an A chord is merely adding the 7th.

In a band context, it is not necessary to play every note in a chord, as the band will cover any missing notes. Many people are of the opinion that BG & OT music is that of simple-minded folk, containing only three chords. Not true. All those highfaluting chords are there, interwoven within. They have just failed to be recognized.

Those responsible for creating BG & OT music were more concerned with playability & what sounded good to them than fancy names for their music.

Edited by - monstertone on 07/28/2021 10:31:20

Jul 28, 2021 - 1:28:33 PM
like this

12160 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by fluxie

Can someone explain to me "Drone Notes" in very simple terms please, and how they are marked out in tab form etc.
As a newcomer to the banjo, today is the first I've come across them in a book.


Another way of saying what's already said: a drone is a repeated note that may or not be in (or let's say harmonize with) the underlying chord.

The open fifth string is considered by many to be a drone, because no matter how it sounds we're gonna smack that thing when our thumb needs someplace to go and other strings don't make sense or would be difficult to play.

Other strings can also be drones, though usually not throughout a song the way we use open fifth. Open first and fourth strings come to mind as notes that some players use to good effect in short passages. In his solo, the banjo player in the attached bluegrass version of Walk Away Renee uses open 5th and 1st strings as both drones and chord tones as he plays the melody all on 2nd string.

Tony Trischka has a series of lessons on "Other Drones" in his ArtistWorks school.

As to how drone notes are marked out in tab, I think they're not. They're just there. If you see a note that stays constant while notes on other strings change, that may be a clue as to its being a drone. I suppose it could help knowing as you approach a passage that it makes use of a drone. That could help you to give it the right emphasis relative to other notes. But with experience, your ear will tell you how to treat the notes you play.

Remember, except in melodic style, most of the notes we play in 3-finger bluegrass banjo are filler notes. Especially in banjo solos to vocal songs where the actual melody notes are fewer and longer. Drones are just some of the notes filling space between melody notes.

Don't over-think it.

Good luck.


Jul 29, 2021 - 1:12:13 AM

fluxie

UK

34 posts since 11/7/2020

Wow..., Hmmm..., Ok...,
Thanks for the info guys.
Most of it went right over the top of my head, ha ha.
I kinda think I know what you mean.
I'll be practicing soon, so see what happens then.
Banjo lesson tomorrow with my teacher, so I'll be asking some questions then...
Thanks again.

Jul 29, 2021 - 3:59:11 AM
like this

3614 posts since 7/12/2006

Just think of a drone note as one that acts as sort of a foundation for the other notes to play off of. Kinda gives the player a little breathing room. At least thats how i view it
quote:
Originally posted by fluxie

Wow..., Hmmm..., Ok...,
Thanks for the info guys.
Most of it went right over the top of my head, ha ha.
I kinda think I know what you mean.
I'll be practicing soon, so see what happens then.
Banjo lesson tomorrow with my teacher, so I'll be asking some questions then...
Thanks again.


Edited by - stanleytone on 07/29/2021 03:59:57

Jul 29, 2021 - 4:50:50 AM

fluxie

UK

34 posts since 11/7/2020

Lol, I'm not too sure I play fast enough to need "breathing room", but thanks.

Jul 29, 2021 - 11:04:36 AM
like this

2614 posts since 4/5/2006

Grab the bottom line of Old Hickory's post, & don't dwell on the stuff that's now over your head. Years from now, pieces of it may come back to you as an aha moment. wink

Jul 30, 2021 - 10:11:20 AM
likes this
Players Union Member

Lew H

USA

2664 posts since 3/10/2008

I think of drone notes on banjo (not bagpipes or fiddles) as notes that are not in the melody line, but fill in the stream of notes to keep the rhythm going. That may be wrong but it may help. clarify fluxie's wondering what the heck they are.

Jul 30, 2021 - 11:48:02 AM
likes this

fluxie

UK

34 posts since 11/7/2020

Hi Guys.

Thank you all for the information.

I've done some more reading about "drones", also spoke to my banjo teacher today... He showed me how they work and sound.

I think I may have done a wrong one in the first place, by reading about them too soon... ha ha

Conclusion = Walk before you can run...

Anyway, I now understand what is meant by them, but they can stay in the back of my mind till I'm up and running.

Thanks again.

Jul 30, 2021 - 9:25:27 PM

74 posts since 5/20/2020

the fifth, or the short string on top, is seldom fretted, if ever

this is your drone, it makes the same tone 99.99% of the time, like a drone bee, it means nothing except the top short string known as the 5th string

Jul 31, 2021 - 9:21:39 AM
Players Union Member

rvrose

USA

813 posts since 6/29/2007
Online Now

The simple version is - Just make sure your 5th string is tuned to the key you are playing in. If you are playing in key of G - it is tuned to G. If playing in keys of D or A then tune it to A ( with a spike ).

Jul 31, 2021 - 2:16:29 PM

2614 posts since 4/5/2006

There is page after page in damn near every 5-string banjo instruction book, as well as more than a few threads on the Hangout, on how to use the capo & the 5th string to play in other keys. As you advance with the banjo, you will find occasions when it makes sense to fret the 5 string. 

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:43:34 PM

12160 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Buck the Banjo Player

the fifth, or the short string on top, is seldom fretted, if ever


Except in melodic style, in which the fifth string is frequently fretted for melody notes.

And in Scruggs style -- as practiced by Earl Scruggs himself -- in which the fifth string is frequently fretted in playing backup to add a color note to up-the-neck chords.

Jul 31, 2021 - 9:00:22 PM
likes this

12160 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by rvrose

The simple version is - Just make sure your 5th string is tuned to the key you are playing in. If you are playing in key of G - it is tuned to G. If playing in keys of D or A then tune it to A ( with a spike ).


As long as you mean sometimes, then this is good advice.

G is the fourth degree of the D major scale and it's quite possible to play in D in standard G tuning leaving the 5th string at G.  If I'm playing Scruggsy stuff in D with no capo, I like having the fifth string G work against the G as IV chord. The G note fits the V chord A, turning it into A7.

For both of the melodic style tunes I can play in D -- Whiskey Before Breakfast and St. Anne's Reel -- I leave the 5th string open on G.  I know there are versions that spike it to A.  But it's too much of a mental adjustment for me to do that.

I have played in A without capo maybe once and I don't remember if I left the 5th string alone or spiked it. When capoing 2 to play in A as if in G, then of course I spike the capo up 2 frets same as the other strings. 

Aug 1, 2021 - 3:09:30 AM

4332 posts since 12/6/2009

I know not too much music theory but had read somewhere the 5th string on a banjo is better referred as a pedal point rather than a drone. Pedal points just give the music a little excitement and don’t have to be in perfect harmony......I’ll have to look up pedal point to refresh my memory completely. you can do the same.

Aug 1, 2021 - 3:24:35 AM

193 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Buck the Banjo Player

the fifth, or the short string on top, is seldom fretted, if ever

this is your drone, it makes the same tone 99.99% of the time, like a drone bee, it means nothing except the top short string known as the 5th string


Really!!! I fret my fifth string all the time. As do most of the top level banjo players such as Earl Scruggs, Alan Munde, Bill Evans, Jim Mills, Banjo Ben Clark the list goes on & on.  

Aug 1, 2021 - 7:38:56 AM

3866 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by FenderFred
quote:
Originally posted by Buck the Banjo Player

the fifth, or the short string on top, is seldom fretted, if ever

this is your drone, it makes the same tone 99.99% of the time, like a drone bee, it means nothing except the top short string known as the 5th string


Really!!! I fret my fifth string all the time. As do most of the top level banjo players such as Earl Scruggs, Alan Munde, Bill Evans, Jim Mills, Banjo Ben Clark the list goes on & on.  


OK, let's say 87.8% of the time, then.

;^)

Aug 1, 2021 - 12:39:42 PM
Players Union Member

rvrose

USA

813 posts since 6/29/2007
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by FenderFred
quote:
Originally posted by Buck the Banjo Player

the fifth, or the short string on top, is seldom fretted, if ever

this is your drone, it makes the same tone 99.99% of the time, like a drone bee, it means nothing except the top short string known as the 5th string


Really!!! I fret my fifth string all the time. As do most of the top level banjo players such as Earl Scruggs, Alan Munde, Bill Evans, Jim Mills, Banjo Ben Clark the list goes on & on.  


Aug 1, 2021 - 12:42:26 PM
likes this
Players Union Member

rvrose

USA

813 posts since 6/29/2007
Online Now

Alan Munde showed me how to get the reach to frett the 5th string, first break your thumb....

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.21875