If you struggle to play the piccolo without going sharp or flat, you should learn how to practice piccolo with a drone. In music, a drone refers to a consistent pitch that plays.
You can play along with the drone to make sure you don’t sound too out of tune. Read on to learn how to use a drone effectively when practicing the piccolo.
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Tune the Piccolo First
Before you start to practice piccolo with a drone, you need to make sure you’re in tune. I like to either use a Korg tuner or an app like Tunable on my phone or iPad.
The nice thing about Tunable is that it offers a visual and a brief history of your intonation. That way, you can see if you can stay in tune or if you tend to veer flat or sharp.
No matter what tuner you use, make sure it works for you. I’d start by tuning the first and second octave As as well as any other notes that are problematic for you.
Pick a Key
When you’re ready to use a drone to practice the piccolo, you need to choose a key. You’ll use the tonic to decide what note to set on the drone.
Of course, you could start with the key of A since that’s a common tuning note. But if you play in a band, you might prefer to tune to Bb and so use that as the key on your drone.
Listen to the Note
Open up your drone and select the tonic of the key you want to practice piccolo in. Make sure you listen to the note to help get the pitch in your head.
The better you can internalize the pitch, the easier it will be to practice with the drone. You won’t have to rely on your visual tuner as well, and that can help you listen to others in an ensemble.
That’s the whole point of using a drone: to learn to play by ear rather than rely on what a tuner says.
Adjust the Timbre
Depending on the drone you use, you may be able to adjust the timbre. If possible, choose a flute or something similar so that the drone will sound closer to the piccolo.
I’ve found that makes it easier to match the pitch when playing my piccolo or flute. Some drones are just a very basic, synthesized tone, which is fine.
However, I like being able to match the timbre and tone colors. I don’t have the best ear, so I tend to use the timbre to help match the pitch when I practice with a drone.
Play Long Tones
Now, you’re ready to start using your drone for some serious piccolo practice. I’d follow the same routine I normally do, which begins with some long tones.
You can work out of a flute book, like the Trevor Wye Practice Books for the Flute. That way, you’ll have a set exercise to follow, and you can use the drone for the first note and keep it going as you move down or up chromatically.
But you could also make up your own long tone exercises. I’ve done this with some of my favorite pop song melodies, so I’ll use the notes in order but slow them down to make them long tones.
Practice Your Scales
Another fun way to use your drone is to set it to the tonic of a scale you’re working on. Listen to the drone before you start your scale, then start by playing the tonic.
Slowly move up the scale and back down, and try to hear how each pitch sounds in relation to the drone. This can help teach you if your piccolo stays in tune or if there are any notes that need work.
You can also use this method to practice different arpeggios in the same key. Practice your major and minor scales and arpeggios as well as your seventh chords and other patterns.
Find the Best Alternate Fingering
Once you come across a note that’s not in tune, set your drone to that pitch. Then, you can use a fingering chart to test out different alternate fingerings that may sound more in tune.
Use the drone as a reference pitch to help figure out which fingering is best for your piccolo. Don’t forget to repeat this process whenever you get a new piccolo.
You should also do so with any headjoint upgrades you make. That way, you can make sure you can play in tune when you’re in a rehearsal or concert.
Grab Your Solo
Another excellent way to practice piccolo with a drone is to apply it to your solo. Set the drone to the tonic of the key of the solo that you’re working on.
Then, play the solo as normal and pay attention to how it sounds with the drone. If something sounds off, there’s a good chance your piccolo is out of tune.
Use your drone and the other exercises to get it back in tune. Don’t be afraid to stop and start your solo as well, especially whenever there’s a key change.
Learn How to Practice Piccolo With a Drone Today
If you want to improve your playing, you should learn how to practice piccolo with a drone. A drone can be an excellent tool to help you learn to play by ear.
That way, you can rely less on a tuner, particularly when you’re playing in a group. Head over to my piano keyboard and drone and bookmark the page for later use.