Playing in a Band / Drones on/off?

A general forum for all sorts of piping related discussions. If in doubt, post here. All questions answered<G>

Playing in a Band / Drones on/off?

Postby papabear » Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:26 pm

Hello Pipers! I have heard that when two Pipers play together only one player has the drones on. I listened recently to a CD with NSP + acoustic gtr + violin and one with accordeon.
My question is, in a band setting is it usual to play the chanter as a "lead" instrument with the drones off? I can well imagine it also depends on the harmony used, I couldn't really hear if the drones were on, on the CD perhaps the guitar was simply too loud? I'm sure some of you play in bands? I would be very grateful for any tips and what experience you have in playing in groups. Many thanks.
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Full Name: Chris Stieve-Dawe

Re: Playing in a Band / Drones on/off?

Postby RobSay » Tue Nov 17, 2015 12:53 pm

Hi Chris - In general - it's drones on .. but it's dependent on what your playing, mixed key sets can mean picking the common key note, turning them off or doing something avant-garde*

One set of drones can makes things 'easier' - but when duetting I prefer both of us to have drones going. A good compromise is one player with two or three drones and the other with one (high G or high D depending on key). You do have to consider the tone of the drones tho' - some match, some clash.

Mixed groups:
Drones are fixed pitch and volume - so any other musician playing with pipes really has to use dynamics in their instrument to manage which instruments are at the fore. A similar problem occurs in a duet if the chanter playing the second line is louder/brighter & playing a top line - it can dominate the main theme being played by the quieter chanter on the lower end of the chanter.

Pipes + Fiddle + Guitar - I think I know the CD you mean ( :D ) - in real life those drones are quite quiet relative to the bright chanter, but they are definitely there.
Track 1: you can't hear them properly until about 1:22 when the instrumentation thins out. When playing with chordal instruments - the drones have to take a back seat as the guitar & fiddle (& bass & piano!) are building up different progressions that the drones can't follow.
Track 2: drones right at the front & guitar playing with the drones rather than doing anything overtly 'different' - also using higher registers to complement tonally

IMHO - this is one of the best recordings out there showing the range of possibilities and different balances that can be achieved (within tracks and across the whole recording)

In general I always prefer to have 2 or 3 drones in group settings - and *always* the high drone as this is what cuts through in the group. A single drone or bass note just fades from perception and there is nothing for others to play 'with'.

*avant-garde - for which you will receive unequal amounts of criticism and praise. For example; achordal drones (DAg) are not music to me - but D+d against some Em can be ...


Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:38 pm
Location: Northumberland

Re: Playing in a Band / Drones on/off?

Postby papabear » Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:34 pm

Thank you Rob for your very informative reply and I appreciate you taking the time, and regarding the CD ......... my goodness you must be a mind reader :o Best wishes from Germany & Aufwiedersehen. Chris
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Full Name: Chris Stieve-Dawe

Return to General Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest