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Did you know you can improve your tone in as little as 5 minutes? Statements like this sound too good to be true. However, this one is true, but I do need to share one more detail to paint the full picture. Remember last week’s post on sports and practicing? This post is a continuation, and we’re going to learn how to improve your tone, and add the first drill to our practice session.
A Tip from Sports
In our last post we discussed how breaking up our practice sessions into “drills” will help us plan out our sessions and get the most out of them. Like a practice session on a sports team, they don’t scrimmage the whole time, but they practice one skill for a certain amount of time and then they switch to another. Additionally, they don’t try to solve the problem in one day, but they’ll spend a little time each practice session on the skill they’re trying to improve, which helps them reach a high level of proficiency. Let’s talk about our first drill.
Things You Should Know
Before you start the first item in our practice session, you should already know how to set up the saxophone, have a proper embouchure, and have applied correct posture. If you need assistance with these, please access our free lessons to get these items under your belt.
Used by Pros
There are many ways to improve your tone, but the one way we’ll discuss today is the best method for a beginner, but is continually used by pros on a daily basis. The first item we'll add to our practice session is the long tone. Simply described, we’ll take a deep breath, and play a note as long as you can. Of course there’s more detail to this, but before I get into that, I would like to share why this works and the benefits associated.
Why it Works
When you play a long tone, there are multiple items that begin to develop, and it all has to do with the tongue. Keep in mind that you don’t need to think about your tongue as you play, this is just to inform you what’s occurring.
As you play a long tone, your tongue and ears work together to develop your tone. You know what a good tone sounds like. Once your ears hear a tone that needs improvement, there’s a connection that occurs with the tongue. When the tongue receives this communication it begins to make adjustments to improve the tone.
This description may sound like a magic trick, but this is what happens. All you have to do is play long tones for 5 minutes every day and your tongue will begin to learn the best position it needs to be in to create the best tone.
Using this practice method will not only help improve your tone, but it will assist with your low notes and high notes. In short, your tone will improve and all notes on the saxophone will be easier to play.
Here’s what you’ll do in your practice session. If you can play a low D, start with that note. If you can’t play a low D yet, choose the lowest note that you’re comfortable with. Here’s the process you’ll follow
- Take a deep breath
- Play the low D as long as you can
- Play it as loud as you can, with a good tone
- Play 3-5 times
- If you’re up for more, do the same thing on another low note
Don’t exhaust yourself here. I have had students interpret “as long as you can” as a challenge, and hold out the note until their body starts shaking. You don’t need to hold out the note that long to get the benefits.
Hear the Difference
Even after completing this exercise the first time, you may notice a difference in your tone. It may sound warmer and the tone will be easier to produce. Even if you don’t hear a difference the first time, remember, we’re not trying to solve the tone issue in one day, but we are working on it one day at a time.
Practice Session Checklist
We’ve added the first item on our daily practice session.
- Long Tones (5 minutes or 3-5 times)
Next week will add an item to our practice session that will allow us to get out fingers more comfortable with the saxophone. This will lead to the ability to play consistently and play faster.
Try and Share
Give long tones a shot and let us know how it goes. Additionally, if you have any questions about playing long tones, we’ll be happy to answer them. We look forward to hearing your experience as you give long tones a try. Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
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