I hate long tones. You hate long tones. We hate long tones together.And although long tones are far from fun to play, they certainly are one of the best – and most difficult – exercises to master on the trumpet. What are they? Whey are they important? How do you do them?
What are they? Simply put, long are tones are a very long-played pitch, typically on a brass instrument such as the trumpet. Long describes how long you play the tone – and in this case, you play it for as long as you can. The word tone implies that you play a specific pitch with good quality.
Why to you play long tones? Long tones can increase your playing endurance and your range when played correctly. This exercise can also improve breath control, wind speed,and tone production. They must be played with attention to tone and breathing to be played correctly.
Rich Furbeck, music teacher and trumpet professional, says of long tones, “I play very soft, low, long tones to return my lips to a state of readiness after a really hard session to help me get ready for the next one. It is my tried and true method to hit the downbeat and be ready to play at any moment.” Late trumpet player, Bill Chase, attributed his “phenomenal range and endurance” to playing those very same long tones. (trumpetmaster.com). As you can see, long tones are, without question, one of the most beneficial of trumpet exercises.
How do you play long tones? Always play long tones from a standing position, and use a metronome or a stop watch for timing. When you breathe, intentionally take in as much air as you can. Don’t just let the air come in. Hold it for a few seconds, then, play your tone for as long as you can. Start on G on the second line of the treble clef, and slowly work your way up the staff. When you run out of air and stop producing the tone, wait for a few seconds before starting the next long tone cycle. Be careful, especially if you are a beginner, not to get dizzy or turn blue. Care should also be taken if you have asthma or other lung and breathing issues.
The goal when practicing long tones is to produce an even, clear, and steady tone. There should be no changes in quality or dynamics from the beginning all the until the end of the tone. This goal should never be compromised to achieve a longer tone. Remember, don’t cheat the good tone during the exercise to increase your time.
Time yourself so that you know how long your long tone is. The next time, try to play it just a little longer, but do not let your tone suffer. Try to increase the amount of air you take in as you breath. Try to get a little bit further every day. Some days will not be as good as others, but just keep on trying and you will see improvements over time. To make it more interesting, or to help in timing yourself, you can play along to a rhythm track. Just be careful…. never let your tone suffer. With patience and practice, you will see great improvements in your playing if you are properly practicing your long tone trumpet exercises.