I admit I’m a geek – I like to play long tones even after 30 years of playing my instrument. It’s a form of meditation when I get to forget about everything and enjoy making sound. I can wax poetic about it, but I also recognize that not everybody feels this way! Yet, more than anything else, long tones dramatically improve my students’ playing. So how do I make long tones interesting and inspiring for the less-geeky-than-me? Oh, I have so many ways…
Sound and silence
Instrumentation: Wind, brass, strings, pitched percussion
Age & ability: All ages, intermediate to advanced
Number of participants: 6-35
My long-time long-tone favourite is a game piece in which players have two choices:
- play a long tone
- play a silence
The long tones and silences can overlap in any way, creating shifting textures and timbres as different instruments come in and drop out at various times.
Pitches can be open or predetermined. Here are some examples of predetermined pitch sets:
- An E in any octave
- Any note of a specific chord, such as C Major or E minor minor 7
- Any note of specific scale, such as pentatonic, or D Major
- Any note from a tetrachord such as (0, 1, 2, 6) or C, C#, D, F#
- Any note of the chromatic scale
Any of these options can go on for a fair while. Encourage your participants to listen and respond to each other. Each group takes it in a different direction – yours will too.
More next time on shaping this game into collaborative composition.