Monday, May 13, 2024

Learn to harmonise using your favourite domestic appliance!

I was singing along with my electric shaver the other day – as you do.

I realised that it was a great way to explore harmonising in the privacy of your own home.

Many of our domestic appliances make a sustained hum, or drone, on a single note. Vacuum cleaners, electric shavers, hair dryers, air conditioning, fridges, and so on.

You can use these drones as the basis for exploring harmonies.

First, tune into the drone itself by singing (or humming) the same note. You may be singing an octave lower or higher, but you will still know when it fits properly.

Next, you can try to sing a major scale against the drone (a major scale is the one in the movie Sound of Music: “Doe, a deer, …” and we’re all pretty familiar with them as they’re the basis of most popular music).

To keep track of where you are in the scale, you could start by numbering the notes as you go up from 1 all the way to 8.

Once you’re comfortable with that, try singing a vowel on each note of the scale. Do this slowly and really feel the different intervals (gaps between the drone and the note you’re singing). You may well be drawn to some intervals more than others. Some are trickier to hold if you’re not experienced.

Now that you’re getting the hang of it, you might want to improvise a simply melody by moving between different intervals.

Many cultures use an underlying drone as the basis of harmony in their songs, especially Eastern European countries. Others may accompany songs using instruments that have drones such as a bagpipe or hurdy gurdy.

You can easily end up with a melody which sounds Celtic or Eastern European or even Middle Eastern. You don’t have to stick to a major scale. Explore different vibes and tiny intervals. Have fun!

Singing against a drone like this will help to warm up your voice and to become familiar with holding your harmony part against others. You might even end up extending your range a little. It’s all good, and all private – so go ahead and experiment.

other posts

You might find these other posts of interest too.

How to sing a drone of staggering beauty

The different types of polyphonic singing 2: drone polyphony

Ways into vocal improvisation for singing groups

How to help singing groups harmonise even if it seems they can’t

Chris Rowbury


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