Long Tones On the Saxophone

Long tones should be the most important part of your practice routine. This fact is surprising to many beginner or intermediate saxophonists.

Why Go Long?

Long tones help you develop muscles and skills that are extremely important in most playing situations:

Embouchure. If the embouchure is correct throughout all of the long tones, then you will feel the burn as you reach the high notes. Make sure to really squeeze the corners in the high notes, and do not bite. If you feel the biting, stop, rest for a little while, and then continue when you feel ready.
Tonal quality. By playing long tones, you become subconsciously aware of the overtones and can develop a finer tone quality.

How to Practice

Long tones should be practiced the following way:

1. Begin with low Bb and play this note at a piano volume the best you can for 10 seconds.
2. If you need to, use a metronome and set it to 60 beats per minute.
3. Go up chromatically and play each note in the range of the instrument. With correct lower lip and breath support as well as well-developed control of the muscles involved, you should be able to keep the intonation even.
4. Be conscious of tone quality, intonation, breath support and embouchure.
5. Use a mirror to see your embouchure. Long tones must be practiced for about 15 minutes at a time. In the first session, start at low Bb and ascend to the highest note you can play correctly. In the second session, start at the highest note you can play correctly, and descend to low Bb. Try your best to practice long tones as much as you can. Good luck!

About the Author

Tim Price is a Selmer and Rico artist. He teaches saxophone at the New School University in New York and Long Island University. He writes for SONIC magazine, which is available in German and Dutch. For more information and advice, visit “Tim Price Bloggin’ for Rico” on Rico’s MySpace page or his website at http://www.timpricejazz.com/.

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