Can one note really change your ears and improve your musical creativity? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. But let me explain…A few years ago I took a lesson with the great trumpet player, improviser and composer Ingrid Jensen. As I hopped on the the N train and headed to the lesson I looked over my practice materials and began to wonder what we might cover. However once I arrived, I found that my wandering mind was completely off. Instead of the usual warm-up exercises and scale patterns I expected she turned on a drone machine, a little black box that emitted a single constant tone, and started to play on top of it.
For the next 10 minutes or so we focused on a number of different exercises along with this background tone – long tones, scales, trumpet etudes, and intervals.
Surprisingly these familiar exercises that I had done hundreds of times before were transformed into something different with the accompaniment of the drone. The effect even changed the way I approached chords and tunes in my practice years later.
She later explained that she often uses a drone machine as a practice tool to enable creativity, musical freedom and focus at the beginning of her practice sessions.
To clarify, a drone machine is basically an electronic synthesizer that sustains a single note, but the same effect can be achieved with other instruments or even recorded tracks.
The idea of focusing on a sustained pitch is something that has been practiced for thousands of years.
A drone is used in meditation (think of the “om” mantra) and is played using instruments like Tibetan Singing Bowls or the Tanpura in Indian music.
The drone has been used as a calming element and focusing tool in many ...