Something Simple That Pros Do

Have You Ever Heard of a Long Tone?

If you have, you may or may not know why we need to incorporate them into our practice sessions. Even if I give you the answer, the generic benefit it provides may not have enough flare or excitement to catch your attention. However, I’ll give you the answer anyway: It improves your tone.

How Many Times Have You Heard That?

Probably so many times that when someone online provides tips for improving your tone, it may dull your senses. I’ll not only share with you how to do long tones, or the benefits they provide, but I’ll help you understand what your body is learning. The funny thing is, you’re learning without even knowing it! It’s that painless!

Get Better Every Time

When you sit down to practice long tones, you can have confidence that every time you play them, you’re going to get better. Improvement will occur on a daily basis, which is a huge motivator to practice.

What Are They?

Long tones are exactly what their name states. You play a note (tone) for a really long time. Pretty creative name, don’t you think? Anyway, there are many different ways to practice long tones, but we’ll start with a basic approach first. Here’s what you can do to practice long tones yourself.

The Steps

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Play a low D
  3. Play as loud as you can with a good tone (try f)
  4. Hold out the note as long as you can
  5. When you run out of air, repeat.

When you’ve repeated the process 2-3 times on one note, then you can switch to a different note. I recommend starting on low D and continuing to low C#, C, B, and Bb.

Big Benefits

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that long tones improve tone. I also want to let you know of other benefits that occur through long tones. Here are a few big benefits.

  1. Gain a richer and fuller tone
  2. Get the saxophone to respond (or play notes) easily
  3. Make your low notes easier to play
  4. Helps your higher notes respond consistently
  5. Increases breath endurance
  6. Play longer phrases
  7. Improves intonation

This Week’s Challenge

It seems like programs are often giving people a challenge. Why? Because challenges work! I’ve seen challenges range anywhere from 21 to 60 days. Our challenge isn’t that long at all; our challenge is just 7 days. Here it is.

I challenge you to play long tones for 2-5 minutes a day, for 7 days. That’s all it will take for you to notice a difference. Once you notice a difference, we won’t need to continue to challenge you to apply this practice method. You’ll be motivated because of how little time it takes and the big benefits it provides. You’ll love it!

What Does Your Favorite Artist Practice?

Many people want to sound like their favorite saxophone artists. Most likely, your favorite artist practices long tones; it’s something that most professionals do. So start today, and begin to hear the difference in your tone.

Next Week

In part 2, I’ll share what’s actually occurring inside your mouth (what your body is learning) to help your tone improve. When you understand this, your motivation to play long tones will increase even more!


Have you tried long tones before? What do you think? As you try the 7 day challenge, please share your experiences with us in the comment section.

Comments 6

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  1. Hi Jeff.

    Your posts are always helpful.
    Can we have a demonstration on how a long note should be/sound like?


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      Absolutely Eric! Both exercises help the tongue discover proper placement, and warm up the oral-cavity. Both are great exercises and will improve tone. Thanks for bringing this up!

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