Find the notes before you start

Drones are creating reference tones. Practicing with drones trains the ear to play better in tune.

Drone tuning process:

  1. Listen to the specific drone for the note you want to tune (for example, E drone for D1).
  2. Play the note on fiddle along with the drone. 
  3. Alternate between playing a single note and just listening to the drone.
  4. Stop the drone and practice the note some more. Then play along with the drone once more to check your tuning. Your ear is slowly learning how this note should sound.
  5. Practice exercises with two or more notes, keeping the original note as a focus as well as the same drone note.

Repeat for other notes as you see fit. I suggest doing it for every single note of a major scale. You don’t need to do each note every time you play, but try to go deep with each note at some point. 

Here’s a video lesson on this for you.

Finding D1

We use a specific drone for each note we want to tune.

Tune up D1 (called E) with an E drone:

Also, practice these fingerings with the E drone:

  • D0-1
  • D1-2
  • D1-0-1-2

Finding D2

Tune up D2 (called F sharp) we use an F# drone:

Practice these fingerings with the F# drone:

  • D1-2
  • D0-2
  • D0-1-2-2

Finding D3

Tune up D3 (called G) with a G drone:

Practice these fingerings with the G drone:

  • D2-3
  • D3-A0
  • D0-3
  • D0-1-2-3

Add variations to make this practice more fun and productive:

  • two bows
  • fours bows
  • hoedown (long-short-short)
  • triplets
  • slur two
  • quiet/medium/loud volume
  • slower and faster tempos

By the way, you can find more drones for any note you want to practice in the Drone Central section of the course. There are different types of drones, some with beats, some without. 

How does this help you to play in tune?

The drone functions as a reference tone. If you play along with it and you’re out of tune, your ear will be able to hear the dissonance. Then, it’s just a matter of adjusting your left-hand fingers to the correct position. Practicing this way on a daily basis is called ear-training. Just like going to the gym to work out your muscles, you can practice with drones to work out your ear.

If you actually practice drone tuning, you will succeed in playing better in tune. You are training both your ear and your fingers. 

Further practice

Here are some more exercises to help you play better in tune. Each one is in a call-and-response format. You’ll hear something, and then there will be a space for you to play the same thing.

Why is this good? Because you will alternate between listening and playing. This will integrate both processes so they happen together more naturally.

In addition to playing better in tune, drones make practice sessions more fun. Learn more here: Using Drones to Create Epic Practice Sessions

Continue on to Freres Jacques >>

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13 responses to “Drone tuning the notes on the D string

  1. Took me a minute to understand that when you say “tuning” or “in tune” you’re not talking about the instrument being in tune string to string; you’re talking about intonation in the placement of fingers on the strings and fingerboard. Great lesson!

  2. Hi Jason,
    The drones are great because at this point I am pretty much on my own so this serves to keep me on track and improve my ear for tuning. It did take getting used to but well worth it! Thanks!