4th Bassoon Lesson with Terry B. Ewell (2008, BDP #36)

<music: Vivaldi's Bassoon Concerto in E  minor> 

Well in this part of the lesson you are going to discover a second essential tool for helping 
us develop as musicians. We worked in the last lesson with the metronome. My metronome 
looks a little bit like a flying saucer. Yours probably looks different. The metronome is absolutely 
essential. But in addition to that we need another tool that helps us work on intonation. I believe 
that you as a student should not only use the metronome every day. but you should use another tool 

That tool is what I call "drones." This is just a single, flat pitch, sounding pitch. Actually I've 
chosen the sound of an organ because it's very rich in harmonics. It helps us more easily tune
to a set note but listening how the note fits. 

You can use these drones by downloading them as mp3 files from www.2reed.net.

I have my drones burned on a CD here and I have a CD player.  But I realize that very soon 
CDs will be passe. But if you have an iPod put it on your iPod. 

Now when you're working with drones you can use on your your headset, but what I suggest is 
that you put it over one ear and leave the other ear open. That way your hearing the drone 
through one ear and in your hearing your instrument through the other and you are able to make 
your adjustments.

OK, so let's start some work with drones. 

Well we are going to discover a few ways to use drones in this lesson that you can continue 
to apply throughout your career.

I found them very helpful for me and my students and I think you will as well.

Obviously you can use drones as a way to tune a single pitch. For instance, if we are playing 
exercises practicing stopping and starting pitches, you can put on the metronome and practice that. 

For instance, I have here an F [Fa]. <music: repeated Fs> 

I can just practice stopping and starting notes. Oh, this is in great exercise for just practicing 
the in the low register on bassoon where we tend to be so sharp.(But that's another matter.)

OK, you can set the drone for what we call the tonic, or the note name, the first note of the 
scale or that the key signature. This is often very helpful tuning. I have selected two studies for us 
out of the Rubank method that illustrate how we could use drones and how I'd like you use drones 
when you practice by yourself.

For instance, in this first study we have a B flat major chord so I have set the drone to B flat for the 
tonic note. 


The reason I like drones so much is that unlike a tuner that has a needle that moves around 
(and with that needle you're making adjustments based on what your eye sees), with a drones 
you have to tune with the ear. 

It really is, after all, it is the ear that you are using when you play music not your eye to tune 
your intonation. So this is a great way to become very adept and very perceptive at how you play tune.

This time let me play again a B flat. I'm going to raise and lower the pitch a little bit and see if you 
can hear when I'm in tune in at out of tune. 


I started in tune and went up a little bit and then down little bit and then back in tune. One way 
you can tell when something's out of tune is that it oscillates and the notes seem to fight. When they 
get into tune, they get closer, they fight less, and then suddenly it is like the waves are just there just 
moving together, parallel.

So you need to listen to this and figure out what it means when you're in tune out of tune and you can 
do that by playing a drone and moving up and down the pitch a little bit to see where you match the tone.

You can also practice your scales, not just the arpeggios or chords on the bassoon, but scales with the drone. 
For instance here's a B flat scale with the drone. 


I could hear that I was having a little bit of trouble perfectly matching that high B flat That would be 
something I should work so that it is just right there from the beginning of the note.

Now one of the issues with setting drones is to know which drone to set to. For instance, let's 
look at the next example. 

We have one flat in it. It starts on F [Fa]. Actually it is in the key of F major. 

So one possibility is setting the drone for F. This is what it would sound like with F going. 


That was helpful. I could adjust the pitch of several the notes there. However, one other possibility--
because music often moves from what we call a tonic chord to a dominant chord (and these are things 
you may not yet heard [about] in music)--is to second the drone to what we call dominant or the 
fifth scale degree.

A way for us to find that fifth scale degree is to figure out what is the note name of the key signature 
or the tonic (in this case is F) and counting up five notes. So counting up we have F, G, A, B flat,  C. 
C [Do] is the fifth note.  So setting the drone for C often gives me more notes to tune or more notes t
hat fit the drone than might be the case for F. Let meet try that top line again using the drone. 


So you see with the C drone generally notes that are a third higher a fourth, even a fifth higher are 
notes that you can easily tune within it. It sounds a little bit complicated, it is not that complicated. It is 
related to the way sounds work nature with what we call acoustics. But experiment with different pitches, 
that's really the thing, listened to yourself. Set it for the tonic or the note name and then try five steps 
above it. Just experiment using the ear, helping yourself to play tune. I think you really you advance 
your playing very rapidly.

After all you wouldn't go out in public without examining yourself and combing your hair. Why would
 go perform in public without carefully examining yourself using a tool of a metronome, and using the tool 
of the drone so that you play better; so that you are at your best. So I encourage you to use these two 
tools and adjust your playing. God bless. 

<music: Vivaldi's Bassoon Concerto "La Notte">