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 ...