From: Philip Scoles <lscoles@Oswego.EDU>
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 13:44:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: PED: Long tones, do they REALLY work?

On Fri, 25 Jul 1997, Rich J Ita wrote:

> Patrick,
> When trying to teach kids to take a full breath I have asked them to
> challange themselves to hold the tone as long as possible. Make a contest
> out of it.  However, it is not necessary to do this all the time to gain

My first trumpet teacher tried this with me several years ago when I was first learning to play the trumpet.  We had contests to see who could hold long tones longer, and I always lasted about 1 1/2 times as long as he did.  The problem was that I was not putting any air through my horn, and so my tone was terrible.  Since I didn't really have a concept of tone quality, I didn't realize that what I was doing to hold my long tones so long was counterproductive.  He kept on telling me to play them with better tone quality, but I had little idea what that was.  So we kept on doing long tones, trying to make my tone better, while it just kept on getting worse.

My second teacher concentrated on getting me to blow more air through the horn.  I think his approach would have worked quite well, but he had to stop teaching me after a couple of months due to other commitments.  My current teacher spent the next 2-3 years undoing all of the major problems I had gotten myself into with my tone by holding back the air, closing off my throat, and becoming tense when I played. He approached things from a Chicowicz-style point of view (he studied with Chicowicz at Northwestern).  For the first couple of years that I studied with him, he had me spend a major portion of my practice time with Chicowicz flow studies, Clarke technical studies, and other exercises with which I could concentrate on air flow, all the while having me concentrate on taking as large a breath as possible and staying relaxed while blowing huge amounts of air through the instrument.  His philosophy was (and still is) that it is much easier keep the air moving if the notes are moving, even if they are moving very slowly.  The subject of long tones never came up at my lessons for several years, except for a couple of times when I brought it up.  After 2-3 of years of this, and listening to as many recordings (not only of trumpet) as possible, I was finally able to develop a tone quality which has earned me many complements from adjudicators, conductors, teachers, and fellow players.

I guess that what I am trying to say here is that in my experience, and in the experience of many students I have met over the last several years, using long tones can be detrimental to a beginning student's tone if that student does not have at least a somewhat decent concept of tone quality and therefore begins to hold back the air in order to make the note last longer.  I am not saying that the use of long tones is bad.  I am just saying that I have seen many cases, including my own, in which the use of long tones has done more harm than good due to their improper and premature (IMHO) application.

Philip Scoles
Oswego, NY