Some questions about drones were asked over at the Muffwiggler synth forum, and my answers reflected my view of music in general enough that I thought it a good opportunity to revive this blog by posting them here:
What is a good drone?
I’ve been thinking about this question since last night, and can’t come up with a straightforward answer. Drone is just one way to approach music, and the difficulty in answering what makes a good drone is the same that occurs when asking what makes a good song.
I think good music conveys, honestly and proficiently, the general ideas its built upon. To then describe what that means specifically, I always come up against an elusive I-know-it-when-I-hear-it quality because how those things are defined specifically depends on the circumstances that led to the result. But when creating music, ask yourself what you wish to accomplish, do what you can, and then ask yourself if you’ve accomplished it. There’s two sides to consider when asking that last question: honesty and proficiency. Sometimes your abilities keep you from reaching your goal, and sometimes it’s your sincerity. When it’s the first, the answer is practice, learn to become more skilled, keep trying and understand that these things take time and effort. The second is existential, and requires reflection.
How long is a good drone?
As long as it needs to be, or as long as you wish it to be.
Does the beginning have to be different of the middle and the ending?
I don’t believe there is only one way to approach it. Stasis can be a remarkably effective characteristic in music, but it can also result in boring shit. If your goal is to start from a point and move to another, then do that. Be aware of a listener’s interest and disinterest (even if that listener is just you), figure out how you wish to work between the two states.
Which modules are the most common in your process?
I’m less a fan of synth drones than I am of drones made from other sources. I’ve loved some synth-based drone music, but I’ve heard a lot that is lazy, bland, ham-fisted. Synths drone easily. I’m not overly interested in music that could generally be described as “I just turned this shit on and hit record, call me a superstar, mama.” Some people really dig that sort of thing, or at least some people seem to really dig making that sort of thing, but I’m not one of them. So don’t think of drones in terms of modules, think of it in terms of music and sound. Your understanding of how the modules help you realize your musical intent will dictate what modules to use. Never has the quality of music depended on which LFO you use.
What is your secret to make your drone?
Patience, listening, and a sense of timing.