Into the Abyss: Make Ambient Drones in Live

GIF inspired by drone music - from King of the Blind

Drones - long, continuous notes or chords in music - are nothing new. Classical Indian music, for example, has used drone instruments such as the Tanpura and Shruti Box for centuries, while the Scottish bagpipes also produce a distinctive drone. With the 20th century, came the introduction of new forms of music in which drones were the centerpiece - and sometimes sole element. La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela were two innovators of drone music as part of the 20th century Western experimental canon - listen below to a 1973 recording of the two of them.

With the availability of synthesizers, samplers, and electronic effects, drone music has progressed into different directions. Dark ambient, minimal, shoegaze, dub techno, doom metal, and even the more experimental ends of rock and pop now incorporate elements of drone. On last year’s Virgins, Tim Hecker continued his experiments with distorted drone textures, merging them with rhythmic elements, as on “Stab Variation”:

Ableton Live contains many tools for synthesizing and sculpting drones - here, we’ve reviewed a few of the best tutorials available to send you on your way. To start with, Pyramind instructor Taylor Elsasser uses resonant modeling effect Corpus to shape a sample into a dark drone:

Download a free pack of drone samples from Pyramind.

Resonator is an essential effect for drones, especially when working with noise or other atonal sources. Watch and listen below as Fingers in the Noise makes a glacial, tonal space out of a noise sample: 

Want to learn more about drone-making artists? Check out features on Soundwalk Collective, David Rothenberg, and Lustmord.