Practicing with drone notes

Drone Note Image

Practicing with drone notes

Drone Note Image

Once, I brought to my bass teacher at University of Louisville, Chris Fitzgerald, a sketch of my ideas about setting a good practicing schedule. I am trying to find some basic principles about effective practice and my goal is to set a model of procedures that I can apply to any bass practicing situation, at any level. This specific subject will be covered in another text. While showing my findings to Chris, he took notes and pointed out some good stuff to consider. One of them was about practicing with drone notes.

The term drone became very popular lately because of the little airships that can carry video cameras and get nice aerial images. But the word drone means a steady and continuous sound. For practicing purposes, bass players with no frets on their instruments fingerboard (fretless and double bass) can use drone notes to work on intonation.

Before including practicing with drone notes on my research, I tried it for a little. At the very beginning, I noticed a huge difference. My intonation (I play the fretless bass) got way better and I could easily play without looking at the fingerboard (that is a thing that I must work on). I got more sensible to micro intonation variations and I got more confident on the results of my playing. That was amazing!

I know you can argue that playing or rehearsing with a live band or practicing with any other backing track would give me the same results, but, in these cases, there are several variables that can turn the practicing (or the performance) harder. Room’s acoustic, instruments balance, ambience noise, other instruments volume and intonation, etc. A drone note gives a steady and comfortable “pad” to work on intonation without any distraction.

Besides that, another thing that I figured out is that I could relate the sound of scales I was practicing to chords or keys. I know it is a little obvious, but, according to my practice schedule, I have a specific time to work on scales (technique practice) and another one to apply the scales of a chord progression (musical practice). The drone notes practicing made me relate scales and chords during my technique practice slot. Check the example below.

I was practicing the F melodic minor fingering on all fingerboard extension, aiming to apply it to the E7 altered chord. The obvious choice for the drone note would be the note F – the tonic of the scale. However, as my intention was the altered scale, I set E as the drone note. Thus, besides working on the fingering, I could relate the sound of the notes I was playing to the E7 altered chord.

You can apply the same idea to any other chord or scale. For example, if I worked on a Lydian dominant chord (4th mode of a melodic minor scale), when practicing F melodic minor, I would set Bb as the drone note. That is a very good way to work on intonation and having this new approach, fretted bass players can also benefit of the drone notes practicing.

If you want to practice with drone notes, I prepared a YouTube playlist with a chromatic scale drone notes. Just find the note you want work on and hit the play button.

See you on next text!!!!


Galinha Caipira Completa

One day, the cavaquinho player Márcio Marinho called me saying he wanted me to be the bass of a quartet he was planning to set. I promptly accepted the invitation and we formed the Galinha Caipira Completa (Márcio Marinho – cavaquinho, Rafael dos Anjos, acoustic guitar, Hamilton Pinheiro – bass, Rafael dos Anjos – drums).

The name of the group is kinda weird. It is a name of a Brazilian dish. For around two months, we were unsuccessfully struggling to find a name for the group. We got in a situation that we had a concert in a jazz festival booked, but no group name. So, we decided to have a lunch together to find a name. At the restaurant, drummer Rafael dos Santos said “I will open the restaurant menu and I will find the name of the group.” The first lunch dish was Galinha Caipira Completa.

The group dynamic was very good because we explored the strengths of each musician. When rehearsing, everybody contributed with ideas to finish the arrangements. The following year we formed the group we got a prize from the Brazilian Ministry to record our first album.

Featured tracks:

Mensageiro dos Ventos is a Rafael dos Anjos composition based on an ostinato guitar pattern. It has several parts, with different time signatures and textures. The bass solo was one of my biggest shots. It was the very first take we recorded the tune. We tried other takes, but no one got better than the first.

Samba do Grande Amor is a Rafael dos Anjos arrangement. The original composition is already complex, but Rafael went further. It is a very complex arrangement. The track’s climax is the solo section where each musician goes to different places and get together in some specific points.


Altos e Baixos


“Altos e Baixos” is my first solo album. I decided to record it mostly to explore some of my musical ideias I had at that time. I remember I have had explored it sometimes, but mostly in collaboration on other musicians works. Another reason to record “Altos e Baixos” was to start my solo career because I knew that having a solo album would push me to another level.

So… I grabbed several musical sketches I had written, composed new ones and wrote all arrangements. At that time I didn’t have much experience in producing albums, so I just followed my instincts. Fortunately, it worked nicely! I remember it was quite freaking because I couldn’t figure out if the stuff I was writing would sound well.

The instrumentation I chose was the drumset, bass, piano, sax and percussion. I knew which musicians I wanted: Allen Pontes (drums), José Cabrera (piano), Anderson Pessoa (saxes and flute) and Sandro Araújo (percussion). They are great musicians and great friends that I knew they would deliver the musical results I wanted.

For the rehearsals, I took everybody to a ranch in Brasília’s country side and we spend a whole weekend playing and having barbecue during the breaks. That was really fun!

Featured tracks:

The tune O bom filho à casa torna was a “homage” to a bass that had been stolen and I had recovered it after 3 years. It is a busy melody backed by a partido alto groove. The chord changes are busy too. There is a nice bridge that I used to increase the tension and all the tension relaxes at part C, where I got long notes in the melody.

On my arrangements, sometimes I like having a different chord changes for the solo section. That fitted nicely on O bom filho à casa torna. Another thing I thought about the solo section is that the bass and the sax solos should sound as one long solo, leading the tension to the climax of the tune: the interlude.

The interlude is an interesting polyrhythmic structure, where piano and sax play in 7/8 and bass and drums play in 7/4. After the interlude, I got back to the head out.

Tesselas is one of my compositions that Douglas Umberto Oliveira wrote lyrics. It was composed to a vocal CD and I adapted the arrangement to an instrumental setting.

The thing that catches my eyes on this tune is how smooth the melody goes. I can play or sing that melody for hours! I remember that the first thing I played before composing it was the intro. I spent a lot of time just playing it and it defined the mood of the tune. After that, the melody came easily.

Because it would be a vocal tune, I tried to make it singable. Spots to breath and a shorter range. Sometimes I don’t think about that when I compose instrumental tunes.

The spot I most like is the interlude, right after the solo section. There are two melodies, the main one and its counterpoint. In the middle of the section they swap positions.

I think the climax of the tune is the sax solo at the end of the piece. That was the very first take of the tune and the way the group interacted is astonishing. In special for the drummer Allen Pontes. What an incredible shot!!!