The role of tone exercises

May 4, 2016

Tone exercises are useful, sort of. Read last month’s post about tone for a reminder why tone exercises are only part of the process.

photo, valentina
photo, valentina

Here is what tone exercises do:

  • Excellent tone exercises demand solid fundamental tone-production technique, providing a chance to habituate useful muscular actions. Trevor Wye’s “Flexibility I” flute exercise is a perfect example. (I suggest you buy the whole Trevor Wye omnibus edition.) If your tone-production technique is correct, you can play the exercise successfully (in tune, in time, with all notes responding easily). But you will fail if your breath support, voicing, and/or embouchure are bad. If you are doing something wrong, you get immediate feedback.
  • Poorly-designed tone exercises lack that self-destruct trigger. Often the creators try to prop them up with text explaining fundamental technique: “Use strong breath support! Keep your embouchure flexible!” If that kind of textual instruction is necessary to make the exercise useful, then the content probably doesn’t really matter—it might as well be a single note with a fermata.
  • Regardless of quality, any exercise you do with tone in mind is an opportunity to focus on your tone. That’s a good thing.

Seek out high-quality tone exercises and do them regularly, but don’t forget to listen.

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