Lesson 16: Long Tones

This is one way to practice long tones that I have found very helpful and have modified it slightly over the years.  This can be practiced on most instruments with a little variation.

We will play the long tone exercise in 3 parts, I’ll explain each in some detail.

Keep in mind, this exercise will sound very ugly to practice, but it will definitely help you develop a better sound and better habits (relaxing and listening).

1. Take a deep in-breath:  Use a diaphragmatic breath.  Sometimes expelling all the air first and then relaxing to let the breath in will work well.

2. Gently hold your breath without closing your throat and  relax and listen actively.  Relax any way you can, mentally scan your body for tension and try to physically release it.  Listening actively  is the hardest part of this exercise.  You can easily forget to do it and loose the what I consider to be the most important part of long tones; the ability to fully listen one pointedly, without thought, to the sounds that are reaching your ears.  With practice it should be obvious when you’re really listening actively and when you’re not.

3. Breath out and play your long tone on any note but play the note flat.  By playing the note flat you will strengthen the muscles on the sides of the embouchure which help open the sound and let the reed vibrate freely.  This will also allow you more pitch and timbre flexibility over time.  This sound horrible and will drive your friends and family nuts, that’s why I do this one in my sound booth.

That’s all there is to it, just repeat this for 20 minutes to an hour each day (or as long as you can) and within about a week you should notice that you’re actually playing differently on the bandstand; listening more, leaving more space, staying more relaxed and in general, becoming more involved in the sound of the music.


~Come study with me at KU and get your degree at the same time~

1. Breath in deep

2. Relax and listen (actively)

3. Play note flat