Dynamic Multiple Drone Didgeridoos : The Multi Drone
Multi Drone Didgeridoos makes it possible to play more dynamically than ever thought possible with a single solid bore instrument. It is a dynamic didgeridoo that can play 3-4 distinct drone notes and several more sub drone notes depending on the skill of the player. The Multi Drone playing technique in combination with these new instruments has enabled me to comfortably hit 10 notes on a didgeridoo of this type (5 drone/5 trumpet). The article below is a clear look at how these instruments are developed and what they make available.
Multi Drone Didgeridoo: A didgeridoo built so the first trumpet note sits less than an octave away from the drone.
This characteristic allows for additional drone frequencies to be played one octave below the first trumpet note’s tuning.
The Multi Drone technique is made possible by a Multi Drone Didgeridoo. Extending the length of the “bell” or end section of a didgeridoo is the primary design feature of the Multi Drone instrument. When the bell section is elongated it lowers the first trumpet note closer to the drone. If done with a long flare the higher trumpet notes will lower in comparison to the drone but the first trumpet will lower the most with a long straight extension. What makes it a Multi Drone instrument is extending the bell to drop the first trumpet down low enough to sit close to the fundamental or natural drone, less than an octave away.
Example shape of a multi drone instrument. This Didgeridoo is in the key of Eb with a C first trumpet that sits less than an octave away from the drone
If you add length to the bell of an already finished instrument it will lower the pitch of the trumpet more than the pitch of the drone. The degree to how much more it will lower the trumpet in comparison to the drone varies depending on the neck’s bore diameter and the bell section’s bore diameter. As a made up example; 3 inches added to the bell will lower the first trumpet 50 cents and the drone 15 cents. This could instead lower the trumpet 50 cents and the drone 30 cents, it depends on the difference in diameter from the neck to the bell section. In contrast to that, adding length to the neck will lower the drone more than the trumpet. Example – Adding 1 inch to the neck may lower the drone 50 cents and the first trumpet only 20 cents ( Again, the difference depends on the bore diameters).
The Difference Between Multi-drone and Traditional Didgeridoos
The charts below map the interval between the drone and the first trumpet note on different shaped instruments
1st Trumpet Note
The chart above is a very common interval for many traditional and modern didgeridoos. The first trumpet note sits an octave + one half step (or often a whole step) from the drone note. The transition between the two notes creates a wonderful accent for traditional playing and solo playing because the notes do NOT harmonize well with each other and create a solid accent that stands out. For this reason this has become a desirable interval for many didgeridoo crafters both traditional and non traditional. When crafting Yidaki with Djalu Guruwiwi I found that he tended to create instruments with an octave + one whole step which produces (for the same reasons stated above) a similar characteristic to an octave + one half step. The Drop Octave technique can be used on this type of instrument as well as the next type we will cover with a perfect octave interval.
The perfect Octave transition has it’s ups and it’s downs. Some solo players prefer not to have this type of interval because it doesn’t produce as much contrast when using the first trumpet as an accent. Dubravko Lapaine, a solo didgeridoo player/crafter form Croatia illustrates this very well – “There is a common belief that an octave is the “right” range between a toot and a fundamental tone. But that is like preferring having two colors; for example dark blue and less dark blue. What will you paint with it? And if you have a range of octave and a third, it is like having dark blue and even more light yellow. What can you paint with that? And if you have a range of a sixth, it is like having dark blue and a bit less dark red. What could you paint with this?”.
The need for perfect tuning as we view it in western music may not be a concern for most solo didgeridoo players across the range of trumpets and drone notes on a didgeridoo. The upside of having an octave tuned interval is for playing didgeridoo in a western musical context and wanting to stay in one specific key. Likewise if you were to have a set of many octave tuned instruments each in different keys, you could switch between multiple didgeridoos throughout one composition and change key with the rest of the band. The instrument in the chart above may for example be a great companion for a guitar being that a guitar is typically in the key of E. This style of instrument can become very interesting with the Drop Octave technique for solo and band compositions because you will have three octaves in a row. If the transitions are mastered it can create an incredible parade of sound in which you here much contrast of range in the same key.
Before we move on to the Multiple Drone Didgeridoo intervals it is important to talk about tuning more in depth. If you have not read the section on tuning I recommend reading it before moving on-
-Visit the Tuning Page on this website : Tuning, is it really possible?
The Multiple Drone tuning is the most versatile and dynamic of all didgeridoo shapes, producing the widest range of sounds and the most proximity between notes. These instruments can produce all of the sounds a normal didgeridoo tuning can with the added bonus of an expanded low range and a more accessible trumpet range. This tuning places these instruments in a different category of didgeridoo and opens up a new world of possibility for modern playing techniques. So lets paint a clear picture of exactly what kind of didgeridoo they are. Because the dynamic range is increased so much I would not compare the playability of these instruments to any traditional yidaki or standard didgeridoo as they are a different breed all together. The fundamental drone tends to be far less crucial because of the huge range of accessible notes above and below it. This calls for a player to develop and ability to transfer bewteen many different frequencies with ease. As mapped out on this website, these instruments come with a new set of basics in playing technique. As illustrated above the first trumpet note sits less then an octave away from the drone. The yellow bar below the first trumpet represents some other possible tunings for the first trumpet to sit on this E drone instrument. Tuning the 1st trumpet note to a desired interval in this range allows for a very versatile instrument for playing in western music.
Here is an Example of a didgeridoo with the tuning illustrated in the the chart above being used in a song that has been composed around it’s tuning.
Notice the different drone notes being played throughout the rhythm. The song starts on the fundamental E drone and when the full band comes in at :19 the first note I hit is the C drone which we will call the primary Multi drone, followed by the drop octave E and then the fundamental E before jumping up to and bouncing on the C trumpet.
The Primary Multi Drone note is an octave below the first trumpet note and sits in between the fundamental drone and drop octave drone. This is illustrated in the piano roll below.
Other possible Multi Drone notes – AKA sub drone notes
This is an example of the common note structure of a multi drone instrument. The Primary Multi Drone note is an octave below the first trumpet note and sits in between the fundamental drone and drop octave drone. The drop octave when mastered is as distinct and clear as the fundamental itself. The primary multi drone is sometimes even stronger and louder than the fundamental yet lacks some clarity in it’s harmonics. The lower the primary Multi Drone is in frequency (not in relation to the any other notes), the easier it is to play it’s harmonics. On very low multi drones such as a D drone with an A first trumpet, the primary multi drone becomes very controllable and it’s harmonics are more clearly usable. When used inside rhythms the primary multi drone is a very powerful addition to your range of sound.
The Sub Drones-
These exist in between the fundamental and the drop octave (also below the drop octave on high instruments) and usually but not always correlate to the higher trumpet notes above the first trumpet. For example if the sequence of trumpet notes starting with the first is C, G, A, D, the consecutive trumpets will show up as sub drone notes . These drone notes are less distinct and harder to find than the primary Multi Drone. These sub drones are best illustrated in the original Multi Drone video at the top of this page. When practiced – these notes can even form scales – or better said you can form scales by forcing notes in this range. This is made easier the closer the first trumpet is to the fundamental. When the proximity of the 1st T and the drone increases, the playability of sub drones increases as well. Said another way, the multiple drone range becomes more malleable when the first trumpet is lower in comparison to the drone. The instrument in the video at the top of this page has the same trumpet pitch as the instrument in the example above yet the video example drone is higher in the key of G. If in the piano roll above you move the E drop octave and E fundamental drone UP to G you will illustrate that tuning. Notice how close that makes the first trumpet to the drone. It is this kind of proximity that enables me to hit those sub drones so clearly in that video. You will also notice that i drop the pitch below the drop octave….
The Double Drop
On higher key instruments such as G, A and B it is possible to drop the octave of the fundamental and the first trumpet one and on half to two times. These instruments are very strikingly something new. They are typically as short as 1-1.5 meters and produce drones equivalent to an instrument 3-7 meters long. This is made possible by giving these small instruments a slightly larger mouthpiece than you would normally give them to produce a single drop octave. The really fun part is unlike the super long instruments they duplicate in pitch, these instruments beg to be played fast and respond like lightning even on their lowest drones. This translates into an explosive sound that has a different quality than the super long equivalent. One is not better or worse, the benefit of the short is speed, responsiveness and power while the benefit of the long is delay, hypnotic quality and more instrument to generate overall bass frequency. I feel these small instruments are the easiest for learning the drop octave technique on and the hardest to master. I also feel they have been my most important tool for developing lip strength overall and building power. The reason they are great for learning is simply because dropping them an octave is not nearly as low as deeper instruments. This means the drop octave on these is closer to and equal ( in the case of A and B drones) to what I consider the standard A through A fundamental drone range. As you may guess, a high B built this way will have it’s fundamental drone behave more like a low first trumpet on a super long instrument. If you can play these high instruments with that outlook ( using the fundamental like it is a low trumpet) It open up a whole new realm of playing. This new realm of playing is different even from the lower multi drone range because the lower range actually feels like a normal didge and these are a whole new game.
Because these small instruments are so new and different I offer less of them for sale online. The reason is I would not want someone new to the didgeridoo that is most definitely looking for an instrument to start playing a normal didgeridoo style of which they we’re probably inspired by, to receive one of these as their original learning tool. These are better suited as an advanced learning tool for someone who is aware of what they make possible and have possibly been my greatest asset to developing the multi drone as a whole. I like to make sure people know exactly what they are buying when they buy these instruments and because this page illustrates that more clearly I will try to offer them more on this website as I supply more information around them. If you are interested In one of these powerful little freaks email me and let me know and I will put you on the waiting list. As for the higher keys on LAoutback, most have mouthpiece sizes suitable for dropping an octave once and with more delicate control twice. The difference is these instruments are slightly easier to play because of the smaller mouthpiece size and are still just as powerful for learning the drop octave. They will feel a little more “normal” to players who have not started playing this technique yet.