I’ve done 2 posts on long tones in the past (long tone 1, long tone 2) and thought it might be fun to encourage a 30 day, “long tone” challenge. The long tone method outlined below is easy and a slightly different approach to standard long tones, but I encourage you to try it for 30 days and to share your experiences in the comment section on youtube or on this post. This long tone exercise should improve your ear as well as your sound and pitch.
Having done this for routine for some time, I’ve found it to be great form of passive ear training. Listening and feeling the one note against all 12 roots 100 times in a row, while relaxing in between, helps create a calm, focused, “listening” state of awareness. After doing this before a gig I’ve found I’m more relaxed, have a more musical pacing, listen and interact better with the other musicians. Of course it also helps with air support and sound. *
Here are the simple yet specific guidelines for the long tone challenge:
- 1.) Pick only one low note per day to (Bb, B, C, or C# on the saxophone) – use clamps, rubber bands or tape to hold down the keys if you have RSI problems.
- 2.) Play that note over the play along below – bass and drums playing roots around the circle of 4ths.
- 3.) Relax, correct your posture, sing the note (and think about it’s relationship to the root i.e. the b6th etc…), than write a check mark on paper between every long tone.
- 4.) Repeat this 100 long tones per day (takes less than one hour). You could break it up throughout the day.
- 5.) Use a tuner the whole time to make sure the note is in tune. Try using your ear first before looking at the tuner.
Here’s the play along track:
Below is a short demonstration video – I’ll be playing a low Bb on tenor over the play along. This note is too low for me to sing so I’ll be singing the same note up a few octaves.
The play along comes from the Roots and Rhythms CD.
Non- saxophone players could try this challenge by just playing or singing just one note 100x per day over the play along, It should help cultivate good listening habits and a more refined touch.
* After 7 days I have altered the routine slightly. I’ve found that playing only the low notes began to tighten my embouchure too much thus shrinking my sound, so I’ve been alternating between low notes and mid range or high notes lipped down a half step to help open and loosen my embouchure as well as develop those muscles responsible for opening the aperture (not just jaw space but muscle). This has corrected the tightening problem and I’ve been very happy with the results in tone production. Also, I’ve been doing the low notes with a tuner with the mouthpiece pushed on as far as possible and than lipping the pitch down until it’s in tune, this has helped as well.