I woke up this morning, grabbed some coffee, and did my usual routine of long tones. It occurred to me how much these long tones have helped over the years and I consider it the ‘Zen’ portion of my practice routine.
I have been practicing mindfulness lately with a couple of apps on my phone and I find this extremely helpful in quieting my mind for the day. It allows me to focus more on the important stuff in my life and shut out the nervous thoughts that have been known to cloud my day.
It occurred to me that practicing long tones is very similar to practicing general mindfulness. If you can shut out all of the other stuff that you need to work on and simply focus on your sound, air, and articulation, these exercises can do wonders for your playing and make the rest of your practicing that much better. The thing is, you have to be in a very Zen state of mind to gain from practicing long tones. If you are thinking about what you are going to have for lunch, how your are going to play those ii-V-I’s at 300 bpm, or how you are broke and can’t afford rent next month, you won’t get all you can out of practicing this concept.
All of these other thoughts are important (especially the rent!) but you need to learn how to block them out of your mind and concentrate on the task at hand. This actually applies to your entire practice routine. Your effectiveness goes up 10x when you can devote all of your mental energy towards completing whatever you are working on at the given moment.
The long tone portion of your practice routine is a great time to practice this concentration. It is relatively low stress, you can allow your body to relax and think about breathing (a huge part of mindfulness training), and the more relaxed you are the better the sound gets. Tension is the enemy of a sax player and you want to eliminate as much of it as you possibly can.
Do you practice long tones? What is it doing for your playing? Does anyone else out there practice mindfulness and is it helping your playing and life in general?
Let me know your thoughts!