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Old 08-24-2019, 02:32 PM   #1
Patrick McLaurin
Holy smoking keyboard!
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Lubbock, TX
Posts: 5,690
Default Drone Volume in Old Recordings

When you listen to old recordings (not recordings of pipers who are now old, I'm talking as old as they get), the drones are very audible, especially the tenors.

I don't imagine they did a whole lot of multi-track mixing back then. Is it wrong to assume that there was one microphone? Where was it placed? I don't know. However, taking those recordings as representative samples, it would seem to me that drone volume has decreased, in general across highland piping, since these recordings were made, especially the tenors.

The drones are to provide a chordal backdrop to the chanter, and yet they fail to do so at lower volumes. Each chanter note should have a different timbre when played against the drones due to the interplay between the chanter and the drones' harmonic structure, provided the drones produce sufficient volume in their higher harmonics to be audible. Low A, C#, and E often sound very clear, whereas B, D, and F# can have very complex, almost electric sounds when played against drones with audible harmonics. In my experience, not to discount the bass drone, but I find the tenor volume very important. I would also like to emphasize that the electric sound is NOT buzzy. There are a few drone reeds on the market which are buzzy without the chanter ever sounding; I do not refer to this innate buzz that some reeds have.

What do you think?

My own theory appeals to the competitive advantage of quieter drones being less noticeably out of tune due to the lack of louder harmonics. At least, it works in the solo realm. For bands, a booming drone sound seems to be most desirable and impressive.
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