Flute – Flute Lesson: Four Keys to Effective Long Tones

Flute – Flute Lesson: Four Keys to Effective Long Tones

Flute – Flute Lesson: Four Keys to Effective Long Tones

Long tones are a vital part of not only learning how to play the flute, but playing at a high level. The tone you produce is the essence of everything you do as a flute player. Because of this, long tones should be the primary activity for your daily flute practice.


Even Juilliard Instructor and Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Flute, Jeffrey Khaner starts each practice day with long tones. “I may have had a wonderful concert last night. Played great. Really enjoyed myself,” says Khaner. “But the next morning, it’s a whole new day. After having slept the night, I am simply not where I was the night before and I have to work back up to it.”

So how long should a long tone exercise be? As long as you can make it! In reality a long tone exercise should be long enough to be challenging for your breath capacity (which will expand over time). As for breathing, you want to breath as low as possible and fill in as much air as you can.

In addition to breathing, you should focus on controlling the air so the tone is the same from the beginning to the end of the exercise. No diminuendos, accents or swells.

The third aspect of a long tone exercise is support for your breathing to produce the different octaves of the same note. The goal is that every octave should be equally obtainable. There should be no octave that is “harder” to hit than another.

Finally, your best friend in this long tone exercise is the metronome. The metronome is an objective post against which we can measure yourself and determine whether you are improving. This is the whole point! You need to feel good that you are progressing, otherwise your long tone exercises won’t be fulfilling and you won’t be motivated to continue to use them as the bedrock of your practice.

So do those long tone exercises regularly just like Jeffrey Khaner. Focus on breath capacity, control and support, and above all, use your metronome to measure your progress.

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