Drone proliferation and psychoacoustics

The Wonderful World of ... Other Bagpipes. All the surly with none of the regs!
Post Reply
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:22 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8

Drone proliferation and psychoacoustics

Post by ckrusor »

I'm fond of a big, buzzy, complex drone sound, and I recently found two mulitanky videos that caused me to wonder about drone proliferation. The first is a demonstration of five drones played simultaneously, and the second video shows six:



Are there drone configurations for which adding another unique drone hardly changes the sound of the set because the listener already hears that note due to difference tones, phantom fundamentals, or other psychoacoustic effects of the other drones? In other words, if I have a set with five drones, and it has no E drone, and I add a sixth drone that plays E, is it possible that the added drone will not change the sound because there is already an E difference tone or an E phantom fundamental produced by the 5-drone set? Can we expect that some drones on some six-drone sets are redundant because of this?
User avatar
Posts: 4937
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:25 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Playing Scottish and Irish music in California for 45 years.
These days many discussions are migrating to Facebook but I prefer the online chat forum format.
Location: WV to the OC

Re: Drone proliferation and psychoacoustics

Post by pancelticpiper »

Those drones in those videos sound great, but I found the chromatic noodling on the chanter distracting. I kind of wish he would cork off the chanter and let us hear the drones!

I think having the drones play a full chord like those do (say, D F# A) would sound better if the chanter was playing in the same key, in other words the drones reinforcing what the chanter is doing, rather than clashing with it.

I think if you're going to have a chanter playing highly chromatic music it's best to have a very simple drone, perhaps just playing one note. For example if the drones are playing D the chanter could play Eb, or F, or F#, or Bb, or B and each note will create its own magical blend with the drones. (The Eb against the D drone is characteristic of Balkan singing anyhow.)

But if the drones are playing a D Major chord, playing F on the chanter just creates dissonance.

Just adding the 5th, on Scottish smallpipes anyhow, makes all the tunes based on the 4th sound not quite as good as they would without the extra drone note. I know I added a drone playing the 5th to my Highland pipes and after a few minutes I realized that it detracted more than it added.

I would think that having drones playing a full chord would limit the chanter to wanting to stay on tunes in that chord.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:48 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Location: canned tuna-aisle 6

Re: Drone proliferation and psychoacoustics

Post by CHasR »

yes for me there comes a point when there is just too much frequency masking going on, even with a louder chanter of a contrasting timbre, one will focus on the 'non-drone', 'discordant' chanter pitches and it will come accross as a primarily dissonant music.
Restricting drones to the perfect intervals (oct, 5th, 4th) preserves the salient features of 'piping'... all imho...
Post Reply