Tonic Note Drone: a Musically Interesting Dexterity Builder | Hub Guitar

Tonic Note Drone: a Musically Interesting Dexterity Builder

This technique is an excellent dexterity builder.

The idea is that you play a scale around a single droneA drone is a not repeated over and over again. note.

Normally the drone note will be the root or 5th of the scale, as those two will sound the most stable.

The droned note will also tend to be either at the top of the scale’s range, or at the bottom, so it will sound differentiated from the rest of the scale.

Here are a few examples.

Example 1: Tonic Drone in C

Tonic drone - C major in open position.

Here’s a C major scale, played with a tonic drone in the bass. The droned note is the first note of the scale, and is also repeated after every scale note, creating a scale that alternates between each note of the scale and the original droned note.

Fret the “C” drone with the middle finger, and don’t lift that finger up for the entire exercise!

Example 2: Tonic Drone in Am

Tonic drone - A minor with open string..

Here’s another pattern, this time using the A minor scale at the Vth position. This pattern makes use of the droned note as a sort of repetitive melody, with the scale forming a bass line around it.


It’s great if the droned note is somehow out of the way, and the scale notes are in reach. In example one, because the droned note is played with the 2nd finger, that finger can stay planted on the drone for most of the example, while other fingers reach for the needed notes. In example 2, the droned note is an open string, freeing you to use all of the other fingers to play the other alternating scale notes. The challenge is picking the strings accurately with the picking hand.


Practice droning notes and alternating the drone note with the scale to build your technique. Try using this during your improvisation.

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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