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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think I might be a long tone evangelist. With no provocation, I'll stop people on the street, or corner someone on the bus, and tell them about the benefits of long tones. (Over the years, with the advent of pepper spray and Tasers, I've backed off a notch...)

This is a slightly modified version of the article I first put on my web site in 1998! Over the years lots of folks have told me they've found it helpful, so I'm migrating it to its shiny new home on my jazz blog.

If you've been hearing about long tones and have wondered what exactly is the big deal, and/or how the heck to do them, you might find it worthy.

It's here: Harder Bop.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian
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Great summary Kelly.

You're right, long tones should never be boring. But they shouldn't be too comfy a routine, either. If you feel yourself going all meditative and tension draining from your mind and body, you're probably not working hard enough on your sound and breath.

You never let your internal critic drift off to sleep. You wait till he's a total pain in the @ss, then tell him to get lost.
 

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Excellent, Kelly! And I like the idea of moving up in fourths. A tendency I've had when practicing long tones is to either concentrate too much on one part of the horn, or move around too randomly. When I'd move up or down chromatically, I'd tend to quit before covering both registers. I agree to the importance of practicing long tones, and am now inspired to get back to doing it more often. Thanks for the reminder.
 

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Tenor, alto, Bb Clarinet, Flute
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I have to admit I've avoided long tones for the same reason you did, Kelly. I had no idea what I was trying to achieve or how to go about it. Good article.
 

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I have to admit I've avoided long tones for the same reason you did, Kelly. I had no idea what I was trying to achieve or how to go about it. Good article.
Aside from the tonal benefits, it also increases your overall endurance and ability to get the most out of your breath.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You're right, long tones should never be boring. But they shouldn't be too comfy a routine, either. If you feel yourself going all meditative and tension draining from your mind and body, you're probably not working hard enough on your sound and breath.
Actually, I do get kind of meditative and tension-drainy while doing them! Not necessarily comfy, perhaps, but maybe: present and efficient. "Meditative" in the sense that I try to let go of extraneous thoughts and just get inside the sound and make my body feel at ease while doing it. I've never considered myself a "meditatin' type guy," but I've come to realize that long tones are getting me into that neighborhood.

And I like the idea of moving up in fourths. A tendency I've had when practicing long tones is to either concentrate too much on one part of the horn, or move around too randomly. When I'd move up or down chromatically, I'd tend to quit before covering both registers.
This is exactly why I chose moving up in fourths -- moving up chromatically meant I'd peter out before I ever got to ranges of the horn that needed attention! (Also, and this might be a wee bit airy-fairy fer some, after I've been blowing on that C and move to the F, I try to hear that C partial in F's overtone series, and really sort of resonate with that. And on to the Bb, I try to hear the F -- though as you go higher, that doesn't really work any more, unless you're a dog...)
 

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Great article! Really helpful especially for me that is just starting to learn to play the saxophone. Every sax player I've talked to adviced me to do long tones. It does take a lot of discipline and patience, especially for me because I'm a late bloomer, I am in my 30s and just started learning and Im anxious to play my first song. But I can't do that properly without good embouchure and that is mastered with long tones.
 
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