Long tones - what are they?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BenH, Jun 2, 2009.

  1. BenH

    BenH Pianissimo User

    Oct 14, 2008
    Stupid question time :-)

    What exactly 'counts' as a long tone? I realise this can be answered very simply very easily, but bare with me...

    Firstly, let me say that I don't own Schlossberg, or Arban's, etc. The method books I own are:

    Clarke's Technical Studies
    Colins' Lip Flexibilities (all 3 in one)
    Sandoval Intermediate

    So, using examples from these (or describing other exercises) can someone explain long tones to me? Is it playing tones for as long as possible pp? If not as long as possible, how long? What volume? Crescendos, or not? How high, or otherwise? Should I be doing long tones up to the limit of my range (which would sound pretty strained I'm sure, which is bad!) or keep them, say, below C in the staff?

    I realise it's a simple concept, but... It's not something I've ever really done (nor have I been explicitly advised to by my teacher). I hear so much about the benefits of long tones that I'm becoming more and more interested in them, particularly benefits regarding tone and endurance.

  2. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    Because you state that you own Carusos method I advise that you practice what old Carmine advocated about deep breathing and playing long tones very softly, thus, extending those long tones by an efficient usage of your breath.

  3. Bachstul

    Bachstul Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 25, 2009
    Playing Long Tones is muscle training for your chops, center of pitch training for your ear, and teaches your mind how to "pronounce" them, like when you practiced vowel sounds when you were a child.

    Long tones develop endurance, improvisational skills because you'll know where to go to get that note, even if you don't know what it is when you're playing it.

    Practice long tones when your mind is fatigued. Set to a metronome 58-62 beats per minute. Practice the more agile stuff when feeling alert.

    Long tones are very beneficial, and never have gotten the recognition of how valuable this simple task really is..........because they are so .., boring!
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2009
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    long tones are exactly that, notes held out a long time. Like any other exercize, without a bit of background info, the term is useless.

    My take is first to inhale deeply and exhale until the transitions between the two are smooth and fairly low "tension". We then replace exhale with "play". No tonguing, just exhale into the horn. If we learn how to play without "kick-starting" the lips with an attack, we have more room for various articulations.
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Long tones are of great benefit to sound, endurance and use of air. Essentially, we take advantage of that property of physics that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. (Like pushing a car in neutral--getting it moving takes some work, but when rolling it is easier to push.) The beginning of the long tone involves the buzzing of the lips, which, after a few round trips of the sound wave) gets the air column vibrating. The air column, in turn, then causes the lips to vibrate. The air we blow provides the energy to keep the air column vibrating.

    The key to long tones, in my opinion, is awareness. While playing the long tone we can hear and manipulate various overtones, memorize the "feel" of the note, manipulate the intensity of our sound by getting the room to "vibrate."

    To avoid getting "muscle bound," dynamics are a huge help. Start softly, smoothly crescendo until just before the note begins to "break up," then decrescendo smoothly until nothing. This increases our dynamic range.

    To make things a bit tougher, play a note. Match it with the mouthpiece, then, while holding the note, insert the mouthpiece slowly into the receiver, trying to avoid the "break" as the mouthpiece enters the receiver. A variation is to leave the valves open, forcing the note down a half step (easiest), whole step, etc. This helps build muscle strength gently.

    Long tones are time consuming, but as part of a balanced practice routine it is time very well spent.

    Have fun!
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2009
  6. rbdeli

    rbdeli Mezzo Piano User

    May 8, 2009
    My highschool instructor who was very much into developing range and power, had me do long tones like this.

    Start on Low C. Deep breath, start softly, crecendo until it's as loud as you can, decrescendo 'itl it's as soft as you can play, then keep blowing, blowing, blowing until you feel like you're going to pass out and sound no longer comes out your horn.

    Rest as long as you played.

    Go on to C# and so on and so..

    Yeah, I did eventually develop great range and power, but I was too tired to play anything else, so take this advice with a grain of salt. ;)
  7. BenH

    BenH Pianissimo User

    Oct 14, 2008
    I don't have MCFB with me right now, this second, so which exercises are you thinking of? The 6 notes? Or are there other long tones I haven't got to yet?
  8. BenH

    BenH Pianissimo User

    Oct 14, 2008
    Thanks for all the replies guys.

    Can anyone offer suggestions on what range to cover with these? Should I go as high as I can, or keep it in the staff, say?
  9. rbdeli

    rbdeli Mezzo Piano User

    May 8, 2009
    How high you go is a good question and the answer depends on two things:

    How much time do you have to practice?
    How much time do you have to rest in between?

    Obviously, the more of our range we practice in, the better we are going to sound at it. But we also have to realize that we have only so much time to practice in a day. Playing Long tones over a two - three octave span will really tire us out, if we don't have the time to devote to both practicing and resting in between.

    My old practice routine would include long tones or using the Claude Gordon Systematic Approach and playing as high as I could go, but I would only do that every other day.

    I think you have to find a routine that is practical for you.
  10. ccNochops

    ccNochops Piano User

    Sep 30, 2006
    White Marsh, VA
    Bachstul, I'm gonna try the fatigued mind approach. Many nights I pass on the horn because the day has left me blown out. "Too fried" to play has been a good as any excuse....I'm gonna try the long tones, no serious thinking practice on those days....thanx, chuck

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