OK. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject of AIR. There are two things we should know about air, if we are to use it to make music, either by playing a wind instrument or by singing:
1. How to get it, and, 2. How to use it.
At this point, let us focus on the How to get it.
Each of you, with few exceptions, are already expert in the process of breathing, and already are doing it perfectly. The way you are breathing, at this very moment, is precisely the way you should breathe when performing. That is because your breathing at this present moment is that God-given, perfect, and automatic, life-sustaining process. You are either inhaling through your nose only, or through both your nose and mouth.
Now, to employ your breathing apparatus properly while involved in the act of playing a wind instrument, or while singing– you would simply continue breathing this way, but with MORE of it. It is as simple as that.
My observations during the past 50 years of professional playing and teaching, however, have shown me that proper breathing is all too uncommon. Because it is so simple, it should be easy. What would cause the performer to breathe in a less-than-proper manner just because they are performing?
There are troublesome things, called variables. These are things or thoughts which can cause a player to alter the breathing process and to depart from this “automatic” and PROPER method of getting air. Let’s not dwell on these for now, but just mention them: 1. Holding the instrument, 2. Requiring a larger quantity of air, even though not ‘winded,’ or ‘short-of-breath.’ 3. And may I mention one other, one which is more subtle, but I have often observed it…..the attitude of being an Artist, to the extent that it produces wrong responses. I hope to enlarge upon each of these variables in future articles.
Can we now conclude this brief commentary by describing the proper procedure of GETTING AIR? You have been breathing Perfectly…..you take your instrument…..and, although you are an Artist, and folks may be listening and watching, you inhale Exactly The Same Way you presently are inhaling, as you are reading this…..only MORE of it, to some degree……..1. USING YOUR NOSE ONLY, or USING BOTH YOUR NOSE AND MOUTH………2. without dropping your jaw during the inhalation…….3. without changing from the relaxed ‘aaahhh,’ to a ‘hoooo,’ fuuuuu,’ or some other syllabically-inspired formation of your oral cavity/throat area………. 4. without ‘hardening’ anything up, in the abdominal region, and…….5. without arching your back during the inhalation, raising your shoulders, or doing anything which is different than what you are doing while reading this.
Briefly, simply inhale, always using your nose (you get more air, more easily, using the nose), and often adding the mouth, keeping shoulders DOWN, and your torso in a relaxed position. It’s easy.
Much to say yet about the other two methods of obtaining air — notably Cyclical Breathing and Sniffing Between Notes — Also on delivery of air, posture, and various mental concepts. Has this helped anyone? Let me know.
By the way, have you ever considered What makes your lungs go in and out? I Look forward to hearing from you…