1 Thing You Need to Know: Tone

One reason people want to learn the saxophone is because they were first attracted to the tone. With enough practice, you can actually sound exactly (if not pretty close) like your favorite saxophone player- but that’s for a different post. This post will talk about one thing that will significantly help your tone. Today we’re going to talk about long tones.

What is a Long Tone?

A long tone is an exercise that accelerates how quickly your tone improves. Basically, you play one note for as long as you can. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but there’s a reason why professionals play long tones, and never remove it from their practice sessions and warm-up routines. Before I discuss all the significant benefits, I want to share the steps for practicing a long tone.

Long Tone Steps

  1. Ensure your embouchure is correct
  2. Prepare to play a low G
  3. Take a deep breath
  4. Play the note as loud as you can, with a good tone
  5. Hold for as long as you can
  6. Repeat on the notes discussed below
  7. Do this every practice session

We suggest starting on a low G and then work your way down. After a few months, you should be able to play most of these (if not all). Start with G, our first note mentioned above, and then go down chromatically: F#, F, E, Eb, D, C#, C, B, Bb. Remember, hold each note as long as you can.

The G through the E should be easier than the rest. If you can’t get the lower notes right now, it’s not a big deal; they will come with time

Do What You Can

When a new concept is taught, we often think that we have to complete the entire exercise to get all the benefits. This is not the case for long tones. If all you can play is the low G, then play a long tone on that one note. You will still receive the benefits.

What are the Benefits?

Here’s a list of some of the benefits you’ll receive from playing long tones

  1. Improved tone
  2. Ability to play low notes
  3. Ability to play high notes
  4. All notes become easier to play
  5. Improved intonation
  6. Accelerate tone improvement

These are pretty significant benefits for holding a note as long as you can. It almost seems like magic, but I will share that they may not be fun to play, day after day.

However, because the benefits impact tone in a way that is easy to identify, fun does not become the motivating factor for consistency with this exercise, but results become the motivator. You’ll see them pretty quickly.


There’s a part of learning that requires participation in activity in order to improve. For example, my first saxophone instructor encouraged me to play in as many musical groups as possible. Practicing was not only important, but simply playing was also key to improvement.

Long tones follow the same concept. Just play them and improvement will happen. That’s why you should play long tones every practice session. If you skip this exercise, the results will slow down. So, set a goal for long tones and start improving your tone. Like I mentioned, it won’t take much repetition to start seeing the benefits.

Share with Us!

Let us know how long tones are impacting your tone. Or, if you have some tips on long tones, feel free to share in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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