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How long is a long tone?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by jellybassbeans, Jan 18, 2005.

  1. jellybassbeans

    jellybassbeans Guest

    Mar 19, 2004
    Is there a consensus as to how long one should practice a long tone? The longest I've seen referenced in these forums is half notes at 20bpm, which doesn't seem all that long to me. Horn players will practice long tones, but the longest they can play a note is limited by their lung capacity. Theoretically, we can bow a single note for - well forever, or rather, until the left hand totally gives out. However, pushing it that far is probably unhealthy, and I expect one should work up to a certain length of time.

    With or without vibrato? There's another variable, since holding a static note is quite different than a vibrated note. I want to work on a vibrato long tones exercise, and would like some guidance on how long we should hold onto any given note on any given finger.

    Appreciate it!

  2. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    If you can keep a note going and sounding good for 20 seconds without changing bows, I'd say you're doing O.K.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Long tones is a vital bowing building-block exercise...including the execution of fast passages with opposite bows.

    If you're only accustomed to moving the bow back and forth quickly, you'll have a hard time getting good articulation in the really fast passages.

    Plus to me, a slow bow near the bridge with Spirocores is a heavenly sound.
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    You don't have a bathroom like WARBLERTON's, do you? Not another one...
  5. jellybassbeans

    jellybassbeans Guest

    Mar 19, 2004
    Thanks for all the insights. I hadn't really considered long tones as a bowing exercise; I was thinking in terms of how long the left hand can hold a note (regardless of how many bow strokes it takes) and what it means in terms of developing the left hand. I do do that "wonderfully sonorous" exercise of bowing at or close to the bridge (4 eviction warnings and counting!), though it doesn't take me 30 sec to travel from frog to tip (or vice versa). My teacher, Mark Morton, espouses the advantages of using a faster bow speed in general, preferring the more open air, less forced tone that that produces. This of course incurs more bow changes.

    (...kidding about the evictions...) :D

    Thanks again! jb
  6. AllegroConBasso


    Apr 3, 2005
    If your lefthand gets tired you might be fisting it. When it comes to LH finesse remember more is less! And stay relaxed!

    The way I do long tones is pretty much the way I play sustained notes in orchestra. While you can't get a note to start with your bow on the bridge, you can start it about 3 inches from the bridge and then quickly drag the bow to the bridge. Then, before a bow change (ie at the tip) pluck the sting at the time of the bow change with a free Left-Hand finger. (for instance, if you are playing a C on the A string...play the C with the first finger so that you can pluck with 4th finger at the bow change. Basically, always keep a finger above the note you are pressing down). Scodanibbio does this quite well. Practise scales like this and trust me, conductors will love the lush pedal tones coming from their right!

    All for now!
  7. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    personally, i was taught to set my dr. beat to the lowest possible marking (35 bpm i believe) before i've rosined my bow and aim for 20-25 beats.
  8. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    Homer would tell me to practice the first Gradus ad Parnassum etude at like 40-each note at the bridge. Then he said if someone walked in on you you should of course play with a nicer sound.......
    That is one way to get the sustain...on long tones but nothing beats a long bow.....My stand partner has a french bow that is like 3 inches longer than mine. He plays with a faster bow. But then again he uses violin rosin all the time with black hair..
    oops I did it again,,,,