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How long can you hold a single note?

Sax4Jesus

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94
I played soccer for years. they made me play midfield. I ran 13 miles a game and my lungs took a beating.
Is it pretty long to hold a note for that long? I'm just wondering...
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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If you're an experienced player, or experienced at singing, you will know how to control and manage airflow and can manage quite a long note. You need to periodically breath right out to exhale stale air.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,595
If playing fff 25 secs is good if ppp not so impressive.

if you practice long tones it’s amazing the difference that can be made.

when in college and practicing hard I could play a note on clarinet for 70 secs. I think I’d fail at about 45secs at the moment.

Alto sax - not tried for a while, but I’ve noticed this past year that I’m down a bit - long phrases need a breath - I’m out of practice
 

jbtsax

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Unless you have a hard or unresponsive reed 30 seconds is a reasonable goal. I think what is more important than just holding a long tone is learning to control the dynamics and pitch. Here are a few exercised I used with my students.

Watching a clock with a second hand:
  • at 12 start a note at piano and do a gradual cresendo to forte by the time the hand gets to the 6
  • at 12 start a note at forte and do a gradual diminuendo by the time the hand gets to the 6
  • at 12 start a note at piano, crescendo to forte at the 3 and then diminuendo back to piano at the 6
  • at 12 start a note at forte, diminuendo to piano at the 3 and then crescendo back to forte at the 6
I think you get the idea. Watch a tuner as you do this and try to keep the pitch as steady as possible and you change the dynamic level. For beginning students piano means as softly as you can play with a good tone, and forte means as loudly as you can play with a good tone. As players progress on an instrument the dynamic range at which they can play with a good tone increases.
 

Nikki

Formerly SaxyNikki
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I’ve never actually timed it but I’ve been a singer and athlete my entire life so can hold a note for a long time. I’m in agreement that a lot depends on the velocity of sound. A full out fortissimo (fff) takes a lot more breath than a piano (ppp). Also range needs to be taken into consideration too. The note your holding has a huge impact also.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,595
I’ve never actually timed it but I’ve been a singer and athlete my entire life so can hold a note for a long time. I’m in agreement that a lot depends on the velocity of sound. A full out fortissimo (fff) takes a lot more breath than a piano (ppp). Also range needs to be taken into consideration too. The note your holding has a huge impact also.
Yes, another good point about range. Higher notes possibly more difficult to control but you’ll be able to hold them longer. @jbtsax has summarised the exercise nicely.
I always used to think of a heart monitor - and try for a flatline as much as possible. Unless you bolt on vibrato to your long notes occasionally too.
 

David Roach

Senior Member
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I did a protracted period of long notes in the late 80s. I used to play which ever note I was working on for 10 minutes, but in sections of 30 seconds as follows: play for 20 secs in whatever format I was working on that session (i.e. cresc/dim etc etc), rest for 10 seconds, repeat for 10 minutes, rest for 5 minutes (change reed). Repeat the cycle on the next note chromatically. This method was sustainable, but required mental focus and dedication rather than huge physical stamina.

I found this less exhausting physically lung-wise than aimlessly playing until my breath ran out. But after a few months of this my control and longevity had increased hugely (without having to strain).

I could do 45 seconds on pretty much any of my saxes after that, but now I'm older I find 25/30 secs is pretty much maximum, much less on lower notes.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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2,275
35 seconds on a medium volume G on Tenor. I could probably squeeze a second or so more before my peripheral vision started to close in... I think, though general fitness and lung capacity would be a factor in length of note, breathing technique is just as important. Pete touches on this in Taming The Saxophone and has some good exercises to improve technique.

My very first Saxophone Teacher made me play for as long as possible in my very first lesson and scoffed when I got to about 10 seconds. It was very soon after I discovered he was as mad as a box of frogs (IMHO), so lessons ended very swiftly..
 

Ivan

Undecided
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That's him. Eventually I toad him I was hopping off. No way I was spending 35 ponds a lesson on him..
Clearly one of those Hitchcock-esque tails where the 'victim' turns out to have been the perpetrator all along
 
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