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Trumpet Discussion Discuss long tones: Good or Evil in the General forums; Greetings, I've read mixed opinions on the use long tones during practice. How many players use long tones as part ...
  1. #1
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    long tones: Good or Evil


    I've read mixed opinions on the use long tones during practice. How many players use long tones as part of their routine or warm up? Why do you do them? Breath control, tone, strength, etc?

    I've currently started using them to improve my breath control and even out my air. Long tones have a tendency to change "tonal sound" when I play them. Not sharp or flat...or dynamics....just color.

    The note lacks stability. How does one address this issue?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    I think that Long Tones can be very beneficial in many ways .
    First, they can be used to develop a very secure attack in all registers ,
    They can also help in developing good breathing as it is coordinated with the initial attack.
    They are also beneficial for breath control as it relates to dynmanic
    contrast. And last, but not least they are excellent for developing endurance .
    The type of Long Tones I am referring to are the old fashioned kind where you start very soft and crescendo to forte and then back down, in 16 counts. Long Tones must be practiced very carefully, and in the correct manner so
    you will receieve the most benefit from them. You should rest a lot when you start out practicing Long Tones , don't over do it. Start softly in the low register and work up chromatically, resting often , take your time with each tone.
    Be patient and you will see results.
    Last edited by ZeuSter; 01-29-2007 at 01:42 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Long tones certainly have their place in what we do but I think the biggest problem is people playing them automatically, reflexively without really knowing why. Someone told them they should play long tones and they did. I think long tones are good when you have a specific purpose. Here's a perfect example:

    I rarely ever play long tones. I play a melody that has some sustained notes and then move on to scales. The other day I was practicing and felt that my endurance for a long etude I was playing was down from where I like it to be. I wasn't getting that nice secure from my corners that I like so I said "Time to do some long tones". For the next couple of days I started my warm-up with about a minute or two of long tones and it brought back to focus. I continued with my usual stuff and focused on rapid single tonguing from my Clarke's Characteristics and mixed in 125 from Arban. I kept pushing the tempo (in fact that's what I've been doing this morning, the A major study from Clarke's Characteristics... started at 126 and practiced for about 30 minutes until it got up to 144). By the time I was done with all that and some other studies everything was where I like it to be.

    So, that's the grand point... if you want to play long tones or anything else like that, have a reason. Have a plan, an ideal that the long tones are supposed to fix. That goes for any technique you play. Have an idea and a plan. For the most part I think long tones are extremely overdone by most trumpeters.

    If you're playing long tones and notice that the pitch and sound go screwy on you, you need a different sized mouthpiece in my opinion. Something is out of balance and either it's too small or too big, the hole is too small or the backbore is out of whack. If you have to fight the mouthpiece to get a solid, straight sound you need to try something else that just lets you play and forget about it.


  4. #4
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Last edited by PH; 05-21-2007 at 08:55 PM.

  5. #5

    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Cat Anderson's "method" has a session of 20 minute long tones played at ppp; breath as needed as part of each lesson. The idea I believe is that this develops control of a small aperature; the very same aperature required for the upper register. When played softly; there is no danger of hurting yourself. And as a PH states; this can approach an almost mantra like experience; where you begin to feel that the horn is playing itself, and explore the sensory feedback of what is the minimal effort required to produce a good sound.

    What I have noticed from doing this is that I can play softer and with more control than I used to. When I play loud, the amount of effort is a fraction of what I previously used.

    Long tones if done mindlessly serve no purpose, but with a specific goal are beneficial. I don't understand the previous claim that long tones make attacks more secure; how could they? You are spend all your time sustaining a note, not starting it.


  6. #6
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Each Long Tone begins with an initial attack , so therefore ecah tone is a chance to practice good "coordination " of the breath and the attack which should be all in "one motion" so to speak.
    Also ,it helps your initial attack on the upper register notes , if you crack the note , stop and do it over with a "clean attack" .
    Lots of opportunity to practice attacks with long tones.


    I agree 100% with what you said about the "meditative" aspect of playing long tones.
    Last edited by ZeuSter; 01-29-2007 at 03:54 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Zeuster, Manny and PH,

    Thanks for you input! All struck a chord with me on my particular need. As of late I have practiced with a purpose, working on breath control and eveness in my playing. About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to hear Manny live for the first time in St. Paul, at a church. (the name slips my mind) Although I stood in the back of the church which was filled with many people and great musicians I still remember his sound. It sang through the church and flowed like crystal clear water. This is the sound in my head when working on long tones. Will I ever sound like him? No....but if I can sound 1/10 like him I'd be thrilled.

    It's funny the topic of mouthpieces came up. I've been switching back and forth as of late. Monette/Bach/Curry (.665-.590) I am much more steady on the larger rim diameters although don't think I could "play musically" over top line G if I go to an Bach 1c equivant.

    Playing the long tone does provide a sence of calmness. It's one of the few times I feel like I accomplished something in practice. I usually lack patients and am frustrated after a practice.


  8. #8
    Fortissimo User gzent's Avatar
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    I say long tones can be a way to let you know when you are not breathing properly. For example, the more full, relaxed and aligned your breathing the longer and easier you can hold a given note at a given pitch and dynamic.

    If someone isn't consciously aware of how to achieve proper breathing
    technique then I suppose long tones could get you there without having to know how or why it helps.

    For me, remembering what Manny has said a zillion times and demonstrated helps me to 'reset' my breathing technique back to where it needs to be, and in a much shorter amount of time than playing a bunch of long tones.

    Maybe it helps with endurance too - I can't say, I'd rather spend my limited practice time working on charts rather than 'long tones'.

    my 2c,

    Stop acting like someone shot your dog.

  9. #9
    Forte User bandman's Avatar
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Manny Laureano View Post
    ... I think the biggest problem is people playing them automatically, reflexively without really knowing why.

    You could insert almost any technical exercise as the topic of your statement as I quoted it above. So very often musicians do specific drills without knowing why they are doing them. It is kind of like swinging a baseball bat without understanding that you are supposed to hit the ball. You never get a desired result if you don't understand the result that is desired.

    I wish that more often people would make the statement quoted above when speaking to young people. When I teach my students in about 90% of the cases I try to have them understand why we are doing certain drills, and in the case of a middle school band, why we are playing a certain piece of music.

    What is the desired result? What is the educational purpose behind learning a certain piece of music? How and why will we be better after we learn this tune, or perfect this exercise?

    Sometimes we do things just for the sake of the music, and sometimes we do things just because they are fun for the kids, but most of the time we have a reason for everything we do in a music class, and I think it helps my students to understand that reason.

    No long drawn out explanations, just a concept or goal that is understood by the student prior to starting something new.

    In your posts here at TM you, and many others, do a great job of explaining why you do certain things. I just want you to know that I appreciate your time in explaining, "why we do things", and not just "how to do them".

    C - Harrelson 750 Modified Bach Strad
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  10. #10
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    Re: long tones: Good or Evil

    I agree Bandman. In my line of work many times I use the term "rote" intelligence. The ability to perform a task while unaware of its significance or effect on said "system".

    Take care,

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