Breathing is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of making the music sound good. You MUST spend a significant amount of time on breathing if you want your group to play at a high level. The great thing about breathing is that it is a natural event that our bodies do, the hard part is that almost everyone fails to breath correctly, utilizing a shallow breath.
Types of Breaths
- Shallow Breathing= Good for sitting and watching TV
- Deep Breathing= Perfect for playing an instrument and sounding great doing it
The "Home" Breath
This type of breath seems to work well as it opens the throat and sends air to the lowest point of the air column. It also does well to fill up the entire air column in a short amount of time. The reason we call it the home breath is because the creation of the word home by the mouth puts the body in the correct position to breath. When you say home but breathe inward (I know seems counterintuitive) you will notice how the air drives to the bottom of the air column.
- Have everyone say "home" several times
- Have them say home and breath in several times (take time in between otherwise a lot of people are gonna pass out)
- While listening make sure the breath is silent (or almost silent). If you hear any hissing or gasping this means that the throat is closed off...this is bad!
- "Horns Up!": Have them breath and then play a concert F in the staff and hold for 4 clicks. Then 8 clicks, then 12, 16...you get where I'm going here
- Start incorportating the breath in the count off to get the ensemble used to breathing in time ie: 1-2 and breathe 2-3-4. (Get it, when you say breathe it's count 1 of the 2nd bar of the count off so they breathe through counts 2,3, and 4.
- Note: I don't like to have them set on 4, this implies to many players that they sound hold their breath for a count. This is bad! A good breath should flow directly into the note, there is no stop. Think of it like a good golf swing or tennis swing or bowling toss or basketball shot. It's continuous, fluid, and has a tempo to it. DON'T HOLD THE BREATH!
Exercises for Breathing
Utilizing a click:
- In for 8, out for 8
- In for 6, out for 8
- In for 4, out for 8
- In for 2, out for 8
- In for 1, out for 8
Experiment further with these tempos and check out The Breathing Gym
Spend a lot of time on breathing! It's easy to forget to do it or feel like the extra 3 minutes not doing it will be better spent working on an extra set or 8 more bars of music This is a bad mental place to be, when the breath works the sound of the group is WAY better and in the end this is THE most important part of the music. If you play the right notes and rhythms but sound terrible, no judge is going to give you high points. A good breath means a loud, full, in-tune, and balanced ensemble. Get to work!
"Here again, air to sound"- Boyde Hood (Trumpet LA Phil, Professor of Trumpet USC)