Drones and long notes

It doesn’t matter how well you play and how many songs you know – its all about your tone!


A necessary and very essential part of any saxophonists schedule must be sustained long note practice. This is one of the best ways to improve your tone alongside Overtones.

Start very relaxed and use a tuner if you can throught this exercise. Remember you have 2 ears and 1 mouth so listen harder than you blow.

Exhale first to expel the old air in the lungs (the average person has a third of their lungs full of 24 hour old air) then breathe in, filling the lungs with air from the bottom up until full. This is quite achievable and means you use your full lung capacity (most people only use a third of their lungs and shallow breathe). Play a long note listening hard for continuous tone without ‘wobble’ or variation of pitch. I use the full Deluxe version of ‘Petersons Strobosoft’ tuner which has a pitch graph built in to show the note as you’re playing it – very useful but expensive. see petersontuners.com.

Start at octave A and work up in semitones. Most players tone is fuller below A and therefore your time is better spent working on thinner notes.  Play each note quietly, moderately and then loudly for about 20 seconds each before moving up a semitone. Play up to high F and your mouth will know all about it. Don’t rush this exercise and ‘perform’ don’t just play every note.

*Take care not to overdo this practice as you can strain your embouchure and hurt your lower lip (you shouldn’t be biting hard though)*

Another option is to play long notes alongside Drones.


These are available to download in all keys. I have attached one in concert Eb here (C for alto – F for tenor)

Use this to feel how your tuning works – notice how the dominant notes – 1, 3, 5’s and 7’s sound best.


Have fun with this – much more fun than playing without.


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