What is the drone?

Ever put on a jacket you haven’t worn for ages, stuck your hand in the pocket, and found a $5 bill? I love when that happens. Today I hope to give some of you that same feeling by alerting you to something cool you didn’t know you owned.

Of course you know that SmartMusic has a built-in tuner. But do you know about the drone feature? Let’s check it out. In SmartMusic 2010, look in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for “Practice Tools,” click on it, and specify “Tuner.” Then click on “Drone,” and note that nothing happens. Hmm.

If you subsequently play a note on your instrument, however, the tuner will play back the same pitch in a long tone. Think of this function like a bagpipe, but without the rich cultural heritage and the smell of haggis: You give the tuner a note and it’ll hold it for you. Now you are free to play a second note and tune up the interval between the two notes.

My band director friends tell me this is a great help when your students are learning to discriminate intonation in 3rds and 5ths, for example. It also frees the teacher from playing a pitch on their own instrument (and holding it in tune unwaveringly) so they can fully concentrate on the student’s performance.


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