BREATHING – WHAT ABOUT IT?
Every day we breathe, every night we breathe, through the whole life everybody breathe! So what is it all about when we start to play wind instrument? What’s all about it?
Breathing is the only bodily function that is both voluntary and involuntary. As we age we pick up bad habits like poor posture that cause us to breathe from our chest as opposed to our diaphragm. This result in shorter, shallower breaths which transports lower volumes of oxygen to the brain, bloodstream, and muscles. Taking time to re-train the body to take deeper breaths from diaphragm allows us to intake a greater volume of oxygen which gives us more energy and ultimately translates to better overall health.
Sometimes even me, as a saxophone teacher, we need to invent new and fresh exercises, spots etc using a lot of imagination to get the result necessary to obtain a GOOD FOUNDATION for breathing training. Necessary result is to sound perfectly free on your instrument, no frustration in your body and in your body “prolongation-instrument” – sound – yet being trained behind all that! The audience should not notice what are we doing in the so called “kitchen side”!
I have found that I come back again and again to one person: KRISTIAN STEENSTRUP…………………
………………. Kristian Steenstrup, who fortunately has published two books about his knowledge of breathing, I will tell later on more precisely!
How the breathing needs to work on wind instrument playing?
You need to start to notice breaths and notice where in your body the breath is creating movement. Perhaps in your chest, belly or shoulders or elsewhere?
The study of wind instruments shows that breathing immediately into the upper chest does not utilize the full potential of the respiratory system (yet, it is enough for speaking) and often results in short, weak breathing for wind instrument playing.
One of the most important techniques in the mastery of wind instruments is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing. This type of breathing generates more powerful airflow, expands the lung capacity throught the movement of ribs and is useful for general relaxation and stress-reduction. Diaphragmatic breathing is performed as follows:
On the inhalation the belly expands, moving forward from the front of the body, and on the exhalation the belly contracts, moving toward the spine. Also is important to keep the throat in a position of letter “A” or “O” – it keeps it really open.
Check out my video here!
Find out also in this 3D video, how all works in our body! Watch video here!
Kristian Steenstrup was the one who MOST INFLUENCED me in his masterclass at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, back now for 20 years!!!! He himself is a trumpet player (brass) and I am saxophonist (woodwind) and teacher now! Kristian Steenstrup masterclass about wind instrument breathing was simple: consisting of different breathing exercises and being aware of your body in function of making musical phrases through respirations. BRILLIANT and SIMPLE!
Tricky part is to have done it perfectly ALLTOGETHER without being “disturbed” in any level of making music (solfege: notes, rythm, dynamic, speed; coordination work: fingers coordination; breathing control in different registers and dynamics; FINALLY creating whole after the process of previous “cushions”: feeling free to perform a piece on demanded style with good artistic skills for the stage.
Wind instrumentalists who have developed their lung capacity can play a note over a minute in length on a single breath. What follows is the technique that will get you to exhale much longer than you may have thought yourself capable. It is called circular breathing, which is really OLD technic forgotten knowadays. But this will be another subject for another article and when you put on google searc “didgeridoo playing” – you will find also a lot of explanations on it!
KRISTIAN STEENSTRUP says in his BOOK: Your abdominal muscles play a key role in the strength of your exhalation which is particularly important for wind instrument playing. Understanding how your respiratory muscles work can be key to mastering breathing techniques and improve your breathing through awareness of how the muscles work.
For wind instrument musicians the goal of a breathing exercise is to be able to hold a longer exhale.
Fantastic option as it provides resistance on both the inhale and exhale so you are able to strengthen all the respiratory muscles (diaphragm, abdomen, and intercostals).
Make sure you exhale is slow and continue to exhale with a resistance that is challenging but comfortable until you have release all air.
I feel that it is important to share HIS BOOKS what we can buy on AMAZON; the story behind it HOW he achieved all this is very moving.
IMPORTANT: MUSCLES NEED REGULAR WORK, like keeping FIT your body!
Most people don’t actively use their diaphragms when they breathe. Remember that this tissue divides your chest cavity from the lower body. Experiment with your diaphragm by feeling it move with each deep breath. It’s technically a muscle, which means that exercising it will improve your lung health. Feel the diaphragm as it lowers during an inhalation. Concentrate on its movements so that you can be more aware of your breathing quality throughout the day.
By strengthening your respiratory muscles you’re able to reduce shortness of breath during aerobic activity. Additionally, you may improve your stamina, as well as your endurance.
Studies have shown that deep breathing can help lower your resting heart rate, and relax the mind.
Mindful breathing has been shown to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety while performing!
Here you can find his two books:
BOOK 1: Teaching brass by Kristian Steenstrup
BOOK 2: Blow your mind by Kristian Steenstrup
I do share one of my breathing VIDEO here, just have a brief look of some exercises and explanations I use in my daily work.