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Essence of Drone
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Essence of Drone
southphillysynths
I wanted to get some input on Drone techniques. I have always considered myself to be a drone 'artist' improvising for performance with very static sounds and slow/evolving textures.

I had found myself purchasing multiple copies of a module I liked that would not really lend itself to more interesting patches. Often times each voice ends up being a modulated osc into a filter slowly being opened and closed by hand, a mixer would connect the voices and sprinkle some reverb and its a performance. How do you keep yourself from falling in the rut of similar patched where you open and close a filter for 10 mins?

I am working with some other synths currently but plan on getting back to designing my euro system. I hope to take a new approach of 'keep it simple stupid' and would love some pointers and clarity from people experienced in this type of music.

Two large questions remain:

1. What music, artists, and techniques should I be learned in to further my Drone skills. (already a big fan of Radigue, Sunn0))) etc. )

2. How would you consider building a modular system specifically for drone? Many basic filters and oscillators all mixed together, or a few voices and much more processing? Some other way?

Any help or insight into techniques, processing, or structure of a system for drone would be greatly appreciated!

For reference, one of my favorite pieces of drone! If I could make pieces that were 15% as good as this, I would be satisfied with my modular career. hihi



(moderator edit: vimeo embeds don't work here unfortunately, here's the link - http://vimeo.com/19058233 )
shredsickgnar
Things that come to mind for me are using the Morphagene to make looks or tape loops of recorded synths. Both can set a kind of beat or tempo to the drone that can make it interesting. The Morphagene can be modulated of course and you can get some great stuff that way too but even unmodulated it can make some really great base textures and then can evolve from there. I use this a lot in my music.

As for tape just watch this video.
Delepathy
1.) I'm a fan of the band Earth, they essentially base their entire catalogue around Drone music. I suggest you listen to their album "The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull". You should also listen to the group German Army, they have a plethora of great Drone music. Check out "No No Boy", "kurgan hearth", "How To Never Work Again", and "Swidden". Also look into Doug Lynner's album (using EuroSerge) "Up from Down: Electronic Feedback Explorations".

2.) While I don't compose Drone music exclusively, I would highly suggest getting any/all modules, rack mount systems, and/or pedals from Metasonix. I own an RK2, RK3, RK4, R-56, R-57, and a TM-1. You can make Drone music easily with every module I just listed. If you wanted a straight Drone system, have 85% of that system be filled with Metasonix modules for sound processing. You can never go wrong with it, honestly.
arthurdent
"The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" is an excellent album - IMHO thumbs up thumbs up
southphillysynths
shredsickgnar
Thanks for that video! I forgot the words for 'sound on sound' I will absolutely be looking more into this. I have been wanting to get into that type of looping/layering techniques!

Delepathy and arthurdent

I love Earth! I will surely be looking back to their albums for inspiration. I got to see Dylan Carlson perform solo as an opener for Sleep a few months ago. It was incredible to say the least!

I have looked into Doug Linner for while, he's been so generous with his knowledge of serge! Feedback is something I need to use more. I will look into those other artists.

Coming from a guitar background, I love tube amps and Metasonix has always had a warm place in my heart though I've never owed any. Will surely look into more of his stuff!
arthurdent
southphillysynths wrote:

Delepathy and arthurdent

I got to see Dylan Carlson perform solo as an opener for Sleep a few months ago.


Sleep!! Dopesmoker, Holy Mountain - a couple of real favorites. Another is Sunn, the Grimmrobe Demos thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up
ModHiisi
I find it, again and again, useful going back to the 'classics'. Velvet underground live with John Cale (especially in '66 with the half an hour drone pieces..), Tony Conrad & Faust - Outside Dream Syndicate, Takehisa Kosugi - Catch Wave, Eno & Fripp - No Pussyfooting Etc!

cool
kcd06
Try "Electro-Harmonix HOG Synth Demo 2 - Pads" for another approach to drone, in concept but not necessarily execution.

I found this poking around youtube for new-to-me ideas. It really helps that EHX is not so much a guitar pedal company as they are a modular manufacturer in denial.
southphillysynths
arthurdent wrote:
southphillysynths wrote:

Delepathy and arthurdent

I got to see Dylan Carlson perform solo as an opener for Sleep a few months ago.


Sleep!! Dopesmoker, Holy Mountain - a couple of real favorites. Another is Sunn, the Grimmrobe Demos thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up


I've got OG dopesmoker and reissue on vinyl, love holy mountain and grimmrobes on colored 2 LP, way ahead of you! SlayerBadger! SlayerBadger! SlayerBadger!

Thanks for more suggestions, I will surely be looking into these more thanks!
starthief
southphillysynths wrote:
How do you keep yourself from falling in the rut of similar patched where you open and close a filter for 10 mins?


Don't use a filter? Mr. Green

Honestly though, while I'm not big into subtractive synthesis in general, a lot of my drones involve manual control over an LPG. And I'm finding QPAS is great for adding all kinds of motion and texture to drones, both with slow modulation or audio rate modulation.

southphillysynths wrote:
How would you consider building a modular system specifically for drone? Many basic filters and oscillators all mixed together, or a few voices and much more processing? Some other way?


I tend toward few voices per piece, but plenty of stuff I can draw from for variety.

What I like in drones, personally, is texture. There are a few ways to get that:

- audio rate, or fluttering near-audio rate modulation of... something. FM, AM, PM, wavetable position, wavefolding, filter modulation (maybe Q rather than feedback), the gain of one particular EQ band, etc.

- granular, with enough space, which is kind of a subcategory of the above.

- an interesting enough delay/reverb/etc. -- especially in a sustained feedback loop.

- field recordings/samples. I've mic'd my desk fans for drones more than once, captured construction and traffic and running water noise with my phone, etc.
kindredlost
A slowly stepping sequencer to send voltage/gate to an EG/VCA can be a substitute for slow LFO's (which are totally cyclical). In that way you can actually "plan" an event to happen at a particular time during a drone but still make it hands free if that is desirable. Like no gate or voltage for the first six steps and a gate on step seven. Use with a logic module like Plog to set or cancel a flag or on state. Plenty of things with static step sequencers or logic modules can be useful for event control in long droning pieces.
cptnal
Interesting thread. Without wanting to kick off another pointless semantics argument, it's been a revelation to read what others consider "drone", and how diverse. I would call one of my own pieces a drone if its movement was largely textural rather than harmonic, so it's interesting to see things like No Pussyfooting included. It seems that the answer to the OP's question, as with much in modular, is that anything goes. This is fun!
jorg
starthief wrote:
...(Numerous great ideas snipped)...
- an interesting enough delay/reverb/etc. -- especially in a sustained feedback loop.

- field recordings/samples. I've mic'd my desk fans for drones more than once, captured construction and traffic and running water noise with my phone, etc.


Yes to both of those! Feedback around a spring reverb and a bunch of guitar pedals can be freaking amazing (and fragile - protect your speakers and ears if you do this).
Tumulishroomaroom
I'd say a filter bank would be a very good addition. At least for me the Verbos Bark Filter has been a revelation. I'm definitely in the camp of few but strong/rich sound sources and a lot of FX. There's so much texture to coax out of unusual delays like the Verbos Multi Delay Processor or the Jomox T-Resonator/Rackoniser and ride the feedback crest !

Also yes to loops; I have some drone loops in a TG One that I use all the time as a bed of the track, I just ordered a Morphagene to push the concept further (but in a separate case as its own instrument with supporting modules).

A couple examples :
https://www.instagram.com/p/Br23XoPhM2I/
https://www.instagram.com/p/Btx9T2-FWLZ/

Also not euro, but plays very well with euro, the Lyra 8 is a wonderfully expressive drone machine.
Pelsea
southphillysynths wrote:
How do you keep yourself from falling in the rut of similar patched where you open and close a filter for 10 mins?

2. How would you consider building a modular system specifically for drone? Many basic filters and oscillators all mixed together, or a few voices and much more processing? Some other way?


My take:
The one essential module for drone work is a voltage controlled mixer. That implies something to control the levels of the voices-- at minimum a set of LFOs, ideally something chaotic like sloth.

I like to use 4 voices, more if I have them but a maximum of 4 playing at one time. Almost any voice will do if it will sustain, but they can't be too simple. The interest in drone music comes from a subtle interplay deep in the texture-- beats between harmonics, shifting formants, varying waveforms. This requires even more LFO-like controllers.

The first thing I do when setting up a drone is to turn all voices on together. This lets me adjust tuning and level.

A drone need not consist of only steady pitches, it can have a a simple harmonic progression. I like to follow the circle of fifths, changing pitch only when a voice is silent.

I like to add an obligato to my drones. This is some little event that turns up at unpredictable intervals, like the occasional tinkle of bells. It should be barely perceptible in the mix.

I see that others have suggested long delay loops as a drone technique. (I've been doing this long enough to remember setting up a row of Revoxes on stage and stretching a tape across them, so I still call it tape delay.) One interesting technique is to add subtle processing in the loop, like pitch change or a graphic eq. I build my loops in Max/msp, so I have a lot of processes at my disposal. Looping the drone parts is not a good idea, since they will eventually grow out of control, but looping the obligato is killer.
naturligfunktion
Nice thread and interesting topic! I dont know that much how to make drone, but I highly recommend M Geddes Grengas for some quality listnening
dooj88
i like taking all these examples of multiple voices, slow melodic progressions, textural diversity and mushing them together. i really like using a frequency shifter for adding dirt and grit, to the effect of a distortion.

Pelsea wrote:
[
I like to add an obligato to my drones. This is some little event that turns up at unpredictable intervals, like the occasional tinkle of bells. It should be barely perceptible in the mix.


i learned something today, i didn't know there was a term for that. i always thought of them as, in the words of dean ween, a taster.

some of those elements combined here:
southphillysynths
starthief
These are some great points, certainly using some of those things for texture can really make different parts shimmer! I do certainly need to use more field recordings in my pieces.


kindredlost
I have not used longer envelopes to control events! I have always thought this a great Idea but never went far enough as to buy an ADSR to work it into my normal patching flow.

cptnal
That is really one of the things I'm glad this thread is helping with. I feel like what I hear in my head and what I want to do for 'drone' is often so different to what other people consider drone which is totally ok, just super interesting!

Tumulishroomaroom
Those are some incredible examples! Really love that, will have to get more into feedback for sure. I haven't got a fixed filter bank before but have the 4ms SMR, maybe I should try to utilize that a bit more... The Lyra's look to be pretty cool! Hope I can give one a try sometime.

Pelsea
Great tips there, I usually bring in different voices and parts by hand in my performances to influence or build upon rumbling harmonics.

dooj88
Awesome piece! I love the doepfer bit crusher as well, adding in subtle processing of the dry signal ontop of wet signals like reverb often adds some really cool layering and surely they are a taster! Also in the words of Mr. Ween, "Jimmy Page was the brownest guitar player of all time!"
He_lium
when we talk about drones I always think about that first... amazing album !!

Rex Coil 7
This may help ....




effector
Fascinating info here. Thanks everyone.
MindMachine
Comparators with very slowly ascending/descending waveforms or other voltages to trigger 'sudden' events give some movement. The NLC Sloths is a great source of drone cv. Like Pelsea said: VC mixers/ or a bevy of VCA's and/or crossfaders. I like to use manual gates like the Doepfer A-164 or the Planar to introduce some voices as highlights or 'fringe' as a self-running patch will coalesce and swell on its own.

I think Eno/Fripp 'Evening Star' can count as drone as the repetitions build up. I also like the Lull albums and KK Null. Melvins Lysol is manna.
Rex Coil 7
MindMachine wrote:
... Eno/Fripp ...
No Pussyfooting. I still have the LP that I bought in 1978.

we're not worthy

There is a guy that put up a good number of YT vids .. goes by the moniker "Ebotronix" .. pretty much ALL drone stuff made on a massive Euro system. Uses ribbon controllers, joysticks, et al. Hundreds of videos by him, pretty much all drone.

LINK TO HIS CHANNEL =
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfqUXcNfJvZcnWv15Iw5Wgg

Parnelli
Now I'm not entirely sure that I understand fully what a drone is, but listening to a couple examples posted here tells me it's pretty much what I'm into.

I have what I call my basic drone engine, which consists of 3 real slow LFO's, a Planar2, and a Vector Space. I'll put one LFO into Vector Space i and another in k, with the x or y output of the Planar2 to VS j input. I run the third LFO into the CV of the Planar2. This gives me basically 3 LFO's beating against each other with the ability to add offset with the joystick.

The outputs of the Vector Space I run to VCO pitch and maybe PWM, to filters I run 1v/oct, freq, and reso. and then I'll use what's left for panning. I've been playing with this for some months now and it works quite well. I recently added a Batumi and am experimenting with phase relationships into the Vector Space.

Another "engine" I've discovered is Batumi fed into 1v/oct inputs on the 4 channels of Quadnic either random or phased and I'm getting some very cool results with this.
ws9848
I don’t know much about drone but I usually like it whenever I hear stuff. Recently I have been listening to simon scott which is “ambient” I guess but it has plenty of lush, droney soundscape type stuff that people descibed here as drone or at least drone techniques maybe. Is anyone familiar with simon scott? And what makes something ambient vs drone? That might be a stupid question but I’m old
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