EARS 2

Discover the exciting world of electroacoustic music and learn to make music with sounds.

Drone On….

Time to Compose Your Own Drone

Now we are going to use what we have learned to compose our very own piece of Drone Music. This will be no more than five minutes in length – once you’ve decided how you’ll create your drone, try to incorporate three or more effects over time to show development of your initial idea.

A slowly changing drone can form the core of your work. Other elements can slowly evolve around it, interacting and transforming it over time. Remember to find a good balance between the development of your drone being too fast or too slow – seek input and feedback from peers where possible to check!

How can we do it?

When considering how to create your central drone, decide first whether you would like to take a real-world sound or a generated sound as your starting point.

If you choose a real-world sound, experiment with Time-StretchingA manipulation in which the Duration of a sound is altered. Time stretching can be used to make sounds longer or shorter.More infotime-stretching to create a drone that changes over time. If you choose to use generated sounds, considering combing several pitched tones together to create a texture, before using AutomationA tool that allows you to change the variable parameters of a sound over time.More infoautomation and other modulating effects to develop your sound (see complex soundwaves for more information on pitched sounds and texture).

Once your central drone has been created, it’s time to consider how to develop it further. Examples of ways to develop your drone music composition might include:

  • Using AutomationA tool that allows you to change the variable parameters of a sound over time.More infoautomation to slowly introduce a range of different effects – for instance, gradually introducing modulation tools such as ChorusThe use of multi-layering one or more sounds, often with the use of very small-scale delays. The chorusing effect leads to the impression of a duplication of the original input sound, a chorus consisting of an ensemble of the input sound(s).More infochorus
    or FlangingAn effect that uses very short delays (in ms) to create a cancellation effect when a delayed copy of a sound is added to the original audio streamMore infoflanging.
  • Adding other sounds that work with or against your drone – for instance, adding something that sounds totally different alongside your drone in order to contrast it, or adding another droning sound to compliments it.
  • Combining generated and time-stretched drones together to form new textures.
  • Using panning – of both your drone and the effects used to create it – to make use of the stereo space.
  • Reversing a time-stretched drone and playing it at the same time as the original – this can be especially interesting if automation is used to control the volume of each drone!

Modulation tools – where one sound is used to control another – can be used to slowly transform your drone sounds. Much like the example shown on Working with Drones, these could include:

  • ChorusThe use of multi-layering one or more sounds, often with the use of very small-scale delays. The chorusing effect leads to the impression of a duplication of the original input sound, a chorus consisting of an ensemble of the input sound(s).More infoChorus
  • FlangingAn effect that uses very short delays (in ms) to create a cancellation effect when a delayed copy of a sound is added to the original audio streamMore infoFlanging
  • Ring modulation
Composition Tip

Considering finding a pace of development for your drone where something is always changing, but the overall sound of the drone seems to be almost stationary. If the right balance can be found, a drone can become captivating for long periods of time!

Recall also the drones which are a core part of many different types of musical instruments: Bagpipes, digeridoo, hurdy-gurdy, sarod.

Listen back to the music of Pauline Oliveros.

Or the explore the music of ‘Drone Day’.