Recently I had a student email me and ask:
“What are long tones? I know you recommend them to use in my warm-ups each day but I’m not sure exactly what they are.”
First of all, I am so happy that a student asked me this question, because I consider long tones to be an essential part of warming up and how can someone use them to warm up if they don’t know what they are?
Professionals play long tones for thirty minutes or more each day..
A long tone is playing one note and holding it out as long as you possibly can, while keeping a good clear tone.
You may be thinking, “long tones sound boring, all you do is play one note and hold it out for a long time?”. There is actually so much more to long tones than just holding it out for as long as you can.
Many professionals play long tones for thirty minutes or more each day. They have found that long tones are amazing exercises to help develop perfect tone.
The goal of a long tone is to start on a lower note (maybe a low B in the middle of the staff) and play your prettiest tone for an extended time. It is important to focus on the position your lips are in, where your embouchure is, and how much air you need to hold that note with perfect tone. Then move up a note. How is it different from the last note you played? Do you have to make adjustments to have perfect tone on this note?
In a way, you could say that long tones help you get to ‘know’ the notes. You learn how to change your embouchure and air speed to sound the best.
Getting to know these notes and what it takes to get the sound you want, will make every piece you play sound more professional. Before you can have perfect tone in fast pieces, you have to learn perfect tone in each separate note.
Well did you learn how important long tones really are? I want to challenge you today to take some extra time for your long tones. See what you can accomplish!