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Thread: Long notes (tones)

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    Question Long notes (tones)

    Why is it very important to practise playing long notes on a brass and woodwind instrument? More important than fingerings on a woodwind instrument or less important?

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    Long tones develop your sound - embouchure, dynamic control, breath control, projection, intonation. I think it's as important as fingerings on a woodwind; nobody cares about your technique if you sound bad.

    Saxophone master Harvey Pittel told me the hardest pieces for him were the slow ones, because they involve not just flapping fingers but all those things you stand in front of a wall blowing to develop.

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    It's just like practicing bowing on a stringed instrument, but with your mouth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    Why is it very important to practise playing long notes on a brass and woodwind instrument? More important than fingerings on a woodwind instrument or less important?
    From my perspective it all depends on the individual. It's important that they practice whatever they need to practice for their personal development.

    For some people fingering may come easier and playing long tones not so easy. So it may be more important for them to practice long tone more than fingering. For other individuals, the situation may be precisely reversed. They may find it quite easy and natural to play long tones, but have difficulty with fingerings. So they would do well to put their efforts into practicing fingerings.

    Another thing too is that some long passages require embouchure techniques that is basically the same as playing a long tone, even though the notes are actually changing with the same breath. In that case, a person is actually practicing the technique of playing a "long tone" whilst simultaneously practicing smooth and precise fingerings. So in some situations these two techniques can actually be practiced together even though it may not seem that you are playing a 'long tone'.

    In fact, this is something I've discovered particularly on the saxophone. I was having difficulty with some passages. The reason being that I was actually attempting to modify my embouchure for every note in the passage. It was pointed out to me by an instructor that I should try to keep a perfectly consistent embouchure, pressure, and air flow, and just play the passage using only fingerings.

    It may sound strange that I actually needed to stop and realize this, but it really made a difference. It was a totally different mental approach. I started to view the saxophone almost like an old-fashioned "pump organ" where the embouchure is simply the "air supply" to make the organ run. Then I started playing it "solely" with my fingers trying to keep the air flow and embouchure perfectly consistent without thinking about changing notes in any way.

    The result was amazing. The result was amazing, it actually did wonders. So in that sense, I was actually playing a "long tone" in terms of embouchure, but a complex passage of different notes in terms of fingering.

    Since that time I've learned better how and when to manipulate embouchure technique and when fingering alone is a better approach. Which is required depends upon the passage being played and the effects desired.

    I've taken this same insight over to the trumpet as well.

    So, in the end, the technique of playing "long tones" is not truly limited to just playing a single tone. It's a technique that also comes into play during passages of many different notes. And so in that sense, practicing playing "long tones" and fingered passages can actually be combined into a single exercise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abracadabra View Post
    From my perspective it all depends on the individual. It's important that they practice whatever they need to practice for their personal development.

    For some people fingering may come easier and playing long tones not so easy. So it may be more important for them to practice long tone more than fingering. For other individuals, the situation may be precisely reversed. They may find it quite easy and natural to play long tones, but have difficulty with fingerings. So they would do well to put their efforts into practicing fingerings.

    Another thing too is that some long passages require embouchure techniques that is basically the same as playing a long tone, even though the notes are actually changing with the same breath. In that case, a person is actually practicing the technique of playing a "long tone" whilst simultaneously practicing smooth and precise fingerings. So in some situations these two techniques can actually be practiced together even though it may not seem that you are playing a 'long tone'.

    In fact, this is something I've discovered particularly on the saxophone. I was having difficulty with some passages. The reason being that I was actually attempting to modify my embouchure for every note in the passage. It was pointed out to me by an instructor that I should try to keep a perfectly consistent embouchure, pressure, and air flow, and just play the passage using only fingerings.

    It may sound strange that I actually needed to stop and realize this, but it really made a difference. It was a totally different mental approach. I started to view the saxophone almost like an old-fashioned "pump organ" where the embouchure is simply the "air supply" to make the organ run. Then I started playing it "solely" with my fingers trying to keep the air flow and embouchure perfectly consistent without thinking about changing notes in any way.

    The result was amazing. The result was amazing, it actually did wonders. So in that sense, I was actually playing a "long tone" in terms of embouchure, but a complex passage of different notes in terms of fingering.

    Since that time I've learned better how and when to manipulate embouchure technique and when fingering alone is a better approach. Which is required depends upon the passage being played and the effects desired.

    I've taken this same insight over to the trumpet as well.

    So, in the end, the technique of playing "long tones" is not truly limited to just playing a single tone. It's a technique that also comes into play during passages of many different notes. And so in that sense, practicing playing "long tones" and fingered passages can actually be combined into a single exercise.
    I think that it could be argued though that doing the long tones allows the concept of the constant air supply to be learned without the distraction of the fingerings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    I think that it could be argued though that doing the long tones allows the concept of the constant air supply to be learned without the distraction of the fingerings.
    I'm sure it could be argued.

    As it is for me, I get good results by combining the two techniques together, and I'm not about to argue with good results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abracadabra View Post
    I'm sure it could be argued.

    As it is for me, I get good results by combining the two techniques together, and I'm not about to argue with good results.
    I would never argue with good results either.

    I do both. Some people haven't done either ever. They are usually the people who will argue that both are a waste of time......

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    If you follow the Trevor Wye or the Marcel Moyse books on intonation, it seems that this is a standard part of the learning syllabus for developing fluency with tone production. That is - once a flute player masters the quality of tone on a long note, then the player can produce the same identical quality of tone, on a 1/16th of the same note.

    It's just a systematic way to learn how to produce the tone you're after - whether that's yellow intonation; purple intonation and so on. In order to control coloration, there has to be a reference point for basic tone production - much easier to do with a long tone note to start off with and identify where the tone needs more shaping, than say, starting off doing staccato 1/32th notes, and finding that the tone control is impossible, and then having to draw the tones out longer. Same principle for playing 4/4 = 60 beats for beginners, before speeding the metronome up as fluency develops...

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    John Ericson states that using long tones in your warmup develop the ability to hold a perfect tone and, if you practice crescendo and decrescendo, you will understand how slight adjustments in your embouchure help keep that tone perfect. He recommends six beat crescendo, six beats decrescendo with the primary focus to smooth out any bumps or wavers in pitch.
    Bruce Hembd has a very good blog post on this subject here.
    Without a doubt one of the best practice techniques for improvement on a wind instrument is long tones. A teacher of mine once professed that long tones were good for practically every aspect of playing – with the exception of tonguing.

    Some of the benefits include:

    improved tone quality
    better breath control
    greater embouchure strength
    wider dynamic expression
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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