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Hey guys,
So, I recently developed a shakiness to my tone during long tones. It was not there before, and I am not sure why it is happening.
Also, I could not find a single article with a bunch of long tone excercises. The one article I found was with Philtone, but that just turned out with
some dudes arguing about the significance of long tones. Can someone walk me through their long tone excercises? I use a tuner, but I find myself too worried about the pitch.
Thanks.
 

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If your tone suddenly lost its stability, then maybe your reed has gotten too soft for you to control anymore.
 

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The key is to start soft and get loud, then soft again, slowly, while maintaining the pitch and integrity of the tone - no 'shakiness' which comes from a weak embouchure. About 5 minutes a session is enough of this and its generally used as a warm up.
 

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It is not complicated. You play one note for as long as you can. Some people believe this to be a worthwhile activity.
Correct, Long tones aren’t complicated. They are great for ear training, embouchure strengthening and developing control of your tone. I’m one of those people who thinks they’re worthwhile.
 

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There are lots of ways of doing long tones, but one exercise that's easy to explain is: set your metronome on 60 bpm, play your low Bb for three measures, starting soft, building volume and finishing soft. Rest two beats, then do the same thing with low B, C, Db, etc. and go as high as you can go (ie, include altissimo if you can). You may get some shakiness as you get up toward the higher register, especially at first. It's OK to rest a few extra if you need it. Over time you'll build up strength, and hopefully the shakiness will stop. Now, if you're suddenly experiencing shakiness on an exercise you were able to do before, that's odd.
 

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Better to use an anchor tone like a drone track or a sustained tone/ chord on a keyboard than staring at a tuner. Use the tuner for spot checking...just glance at it on occasion. Sing, play, sing, play, check the tuner, keep playing...
 

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Better to use an anchor tone like a drone track or a sustained tone/ chord on a keyboard than staring at a tuner. Use the tuner for spot checking...just glance at it on occasion. Sing, play, sing, play, check the tuner, keep playing...
I agree wholeheartedly. In fact I think there may be a connection between your "worrying about pitch", staring at the visual cue of the tuner display (which magnifies visually the significance of what may actually be minor and acceptable wavering of your pitch), and your "shaky tone". Did the perceived "shakiness" start when you started looking closely at the tuner?

Your ear is a far better tool for tone and pitch control... In a performance, you can't stare at a tuner, but you will have other players who you need to get in tune with aurally.

Get some drone tone tracks and play the long tones with them. And don't just play the same note as the drone tone. Try playing a fourth/fifth away from it, thirds, etc. Blowing harmonic overtones along with drone tones is good as well.
 

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Also, you should be trying to use a solid airstream and your tongue position/voicing to control pitch as much as possible, rather than jaw and/or lip tension which should be kept to a minimum... think "just enough to keep air from leaking out the corners of my mouth".
 

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I agree wholeheartedly. In fact I think there may be a connection between your "worrying about pitch", staring at the visual cue of the tuner display (which magnifies visually the significance of what may actually be minor and acceptable wavering of your pitch), and your "shaky tone". Did the perceived "shakiness" start when you started looking closely at the tuner?

Your ear is a far better tool for tone and pitch control... In a performance, you can't stare at a tuner, but you will have other players who you need to get in tune with aurally.

Get some drone tone tracks and play the long tones with them. And don't just play the same note as the drone tone. Try playing a fourth/fifth away from it, thirds, etc. Blowing harmonic overtones along with drone tones is good as well.
Yes! Staring at the tuner uses your eyes and actually turns off your ears (why do the work of pitch matching when you can play follow the needle?).
The Tuning CD is a good tool to use for drones. Amazing how playing ‘one note for as long as you can’ is so beneficial to player development. 😎
 

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Hey guys,
So, I recently developed a shakiness to my tone during long tones. It was not there before, and I am not sure why it is happening.
Also, I could not find a single article with a bunch of long tone excercises. The one article I found was with Philtone, but that just turned out with
some dudes arguing about the significance of long tones. Can someone walk me through their long tone excercises? I use a tuner, but I find myself too worried about the pitch.
Thanks.
I agree, don't use a tuner. You can train your eras with aural training exercises and apps, or sight singing.

When doing long notes you need to focus on tone and expressions (expression is the added value on top of the basic tone, e.g. articulation, dynamics, vibrato etc.)

If you want exercises I have some very comprehensive set of long note exercises which work you through these aspects of tone and sound, ie not just tone but also expression which will help turn a tone into a personal sound. These exercises are not just about improving your sound but also about controlling it and learning to make it versatile.

https://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-tone-exercises
 

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Better to use an anchor tone like a drone track or a sustained tone/ chord on a keyboard than staring at a tuner. Use the tuner for spot checking...just glance at it on occasion. Sing, play, sing, play, check the tuner, keep playing...
I haven't used a drone before. How does one use a drone? What is the aural feedback you get? Sorry if this is a silly question.
 

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I haven't used a drone before. How does one use a drone? What is the aural feedback you get? Sorry if this is a silly question.
Not a silly question at all. A drone would be a constant reference pitch for you to work from while you do long tones or other things. Staring at a tuner you just learn to make adjustments based on visual feedback...ever see horn players constantly checking a tuner on-stage? Not a real thing, but I have seen it a few times: it’s hilarious, and sad.
If you’re working with a reference tone you’re not only learning to hear intonation, but also what all the intervals sound like against the anchor. Set it at A for example and play against it on A (transpose for your instrument) then work the full range. Only use The tuner for an occasional spot check and to make sure you’re not crazy in thinking that one note on your horn is always sharp/ flat.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Hey guys,
So, I recently developed a shakiness to my tone during long tones. It was not there before, and I am not sure why it is happening.
Also, I could not find a single article with a bunch of long tone excercises. The one article I found was with Philtone, but that just turned out with
some dudes arguing about the significance of long tones. Can someone walk me through their long tone excercises? I use a tuner, but I find myself too worried about the pitch.
Thanks.
Does recently developed mean: been doing it all along and I just noticed it, forgot to tell you I got some new gear that isn’t suited to me, or (hopefully) that you just stopped biting and now need to learn appropriate tone control?

That aside. Walk through: Pick a drone pitch or two for the day and play along. Long tones at varied volumes all over the range. Scales with the drone as the root and not as the root. Singing and playing everything with my focus being on overall sound quality (always #1) and ear training.
 

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I don't think this has to be so complex. You have two questions, how to do them and how to eliminate the shaking in your embouchure, which I don't see a lot of advice on. Not directly, that is.

Regarding long tones, simply take the advice above to start pp play to f and decrescendo back down to pp. Keep the same pitch. Use your ears. If you're not that experienced you don't need a bunch of exterior devices. Just do a group of tones pp-f-pp and listen to their quality. Strive for consistency. I used to do about ten minutes a day, you're call. Move your groups around so that, within a week, you cover the full range of the horn. If you are, or when you become, more experienced, then the above additional suggestions are certainly helpful. But don't be impatient and don't walk before you can run.

Regarding the shaking, this could come, first, just from inexperience. It could just be weak chops. More practice will strengthen them and take care of that. I complemented this with some of the exercises found in Dave Liebman's book on Developing a Personal Sound, as well as the first few pages of Sigmund Rascher's Top Tones book, if you're ready for them. Also, it could be an indication of weak air support. Make sure your breathing is sound. And lastly, it could be physical that no amount of practing will take care of in which case you should see a Neurologist.
 

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I haven't used a drone before. How does one use a drone? What is the aural feedback you get? Sorry if this is a silly question.
Matt Otto has a handy set of drones to utilize:

https://www.mattotto.org/drones-and-pedals/

As per aural feedback: in my experience, the key is to not play the drones too loud. I found a drone can somewhat get on my nerves if played too loud – and, obversely, playing them at a quieter volume forces me to listen much more attentively and actively. I feel like I've got to kind of actively seek out the pitch of the drone, rather than have it in my face as it were.
 

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This might be a dumb idea, but I've started thinking of ballads as being long tone "exercises", using different dynamics, octaves, etc. Drones are so....unmusical! (But don't tell the monks).
 

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This might be a dumb idea, but I've started thinking of ballads as being long tone "exercises", using different dynamics, octaves, etc. Drones are so....unmusical! (But don't tell the monks).
It's not a dumb idea at all, ballads that involve sustained notes expose the necessity for a good tone and bring that necessity into a musical context. Quite a few people do this, however it is not in any way a substitute for proper long note practice. That would be like a footballer saying "I don't need any coaching or training because I learn all that while I'm actually playing a match"

Drones are unmusical, but long note practice should onvolve a lot more than drones.
 

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Regarding the shaking, this could come, first, just from inexperience. It could just be weak chops. More practice will strengthen them and take care of that.
+1. This was my first thought on the matter. One of the primary benefits of playing long tones is to 'strengthen' your chops (primarily your air stream support), getting rid of any shakiness in the sound. But of course it takes time, so be patient. Beyond that, I'd say all the advice given so far in this thread is spot on.
 

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This might be a dumb idea, but I've started thinking of ballads as being long tone "exercises", using different dynamics, octaves, etc. Drones are so....unmusical! (But don't tell the monks).
Playing tunes, improvising, and learning melodies by ear are all musical things that can be done over a drone. But yeah, they get stale anyway 🙂

I think Ravi Shankar and others have done some pretty cool things over stable tones.
 
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