Arban Method Breathing problem

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by iris186, Apr 29, 2009.

  1. amanitas

    amanitas New Friend

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    Apr 5, 2009
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    Disagree - I think you need to learn to regulate your airflow so you don't blow it all out at one time. As far as I'm concerned having too much air is never a problem in and of itself as long as you know what to do with it.

    My breathing exercise regimen consists of a number of different breath exercises intended to get the air moving and increase lung capacity (mostly taken from the Adam book) but the last one is always the gentle exhale breath - Take a huge breath as though you are going to hold your breath in, but then exhale it slowly over the course of 30 (45, 60, etc.) seconds as though you were breathing through a coffee straw. This helps you get used to having a lot of air at your disposal without necessarily blowing it all out right away, which is crucial for playing at low volumes in the upper register.
     
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Amanitas,
    the only storage area for air in our bodies is the lungs. The diaphragm is a MUSCLE that ONLY can contract (pull down) lowering the pressure in the lungs. Air then flows to the lower pressure area. That is it. There is NOTHING else. This trash about filling up from the bottom just doesn't exist. There is NO mechanism to control what part of the lungs get air first.

    The truth is that our posture determines whether or not the lungs are free to expand and that the real problems are posture and forgetting to take a DEEP breath. Instead of some myth, what is wrong with just saying: stand up straight but relaxed and inhale? Trumpet playing can be very easy if we throw all of this visualization stuff in the garbage and just concentrate on the REAL base processes of our body. It is actually SICK that the human state has degenerated to the point that makes BREATHING EXERCIZES necessary. It makes me sick when we twist our brains into believing ever more "requirements" instead of getting back to basics. The faster we simplify the process, the faster we have additional resources available to improve! This is actually why martial arts, yoga and the like prove so beneficial. We strip the junk out of our lives, that provides a cleaner path to the soul!

    Bachstul,
    a deep breath IS always important. When we learn to fill up, we start using our air in a different way. More air will generally relieve the face muscles of excess work. This increases endurance and range. Using those quantities of air is something that I go into great depth with during lessons. Once we have superior breath support, we can think about dosing the air for a specific phrase. Until we have reached that point, we need to mark it in the score - most players I have worked with cannot phrase properly naturally.
     
  3. amanitas

    amanitas New Friend

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    Apr 5, 2009
    Culver City
    "The diaphragm is a MUSCLE that ONLY can contract (pull down) lowering the pressure in the lungs. Air then flows to the lower pressure area. That is it. There is NOTHING else. This trash about filling up from the bottom just doesn't exist. There is NO mechanism to control what part of the lungs get air first."

    Ultimately I think we agree on what constitutes proper breathing technique. The issue is that not everyone has an implicit understanding of how to properly use their diaphragm in the breathing process.

    I have a lot of students who, when presented with instructions like "stand up straight but relaxed and inhale" tighten their stomach muscles, fill up their lungs to half their capacity, and wonder why their face hurts so much.

    If them thinking about breathing from their feet, or their stomach or anything else for that matter helps them get a deeper breath and therefore relieve the strain on their face, then I certainly don't think that's trash. I think that's useful.

    Beyond that, there is nothing sick about human beings doing breathing exercises, and I don't see how that's evidence of the degeneration of the human condition. There is absolutely nothing natural about sitting or standing for hours and blowing air into a metal tube while buzzing your lips. So the idea that human beings should just be able to do this without any sort of preparation - that we just need to relax, breath deep and sit up straight and everything will take care of itself - is taking a lot for granted IMO.

    Ultimately for me it comes down to utility - anything that helps a student better understand their own breathing process, and how to best control it for their own purposes, is a good thing in my book. If said exercises are not helpful to you that's fine, but I don't see the need for all of the negativity and hostility about it.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Amanitas,
    forgive me if I sound negative. I see more advantage in the KISS principle, than in all other attempts to give the player more to think about than is necessary.

    Funny enough, proper breathing on the trumpet (except for the sheer volume of air) is no different than proper breathing elsewhere. The beginners that are around 9-10 years old don't have to change much of anything. Their posture is often still good and a big breath is just a big breath. The more that we have people at desks (regardless of school or work) the harder it is for them to let go. Their body use has deteriorated. THAT is what makes it difficult to breathe correctly. When we solve the real problem (tension), we can go back to simple relaxed, big breathing, free of the bandaids.

    This is actually my point. By giving the student the tools to improve the big picture, we positively influence MUCH more than the beautiful music coming out of the bell. The benefits are far greater. The amount of work on the body basics is far less than the patchwork needed to compensate in other manners.

    Dave Monette has a great chapter on body use at his site. Even if one isn't turned on by the hardware, the message is extremely helpful for any teacher.

    David G. Monette Corporation
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  5. Bachstul

    Bachstul Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 25, 2009
    I have scanned the thread; I see no negativity or hostility, just qualifiable viewpoints.

    I know I'm not competent at breathing, some pieces I attempt at first can knock me to the floor like I just ran two miles.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  6. Markie

    Markie Forte User

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    On Arban's breathing:
    I was hoping on valuable input that will augment Arban's section on breathing found on page 8. Not much offered so far. However I'm not surprised.
    On breathing in general:
    I've found that sometimes when something that comes naturally is analyzed too much, the analysis itself is a hinderance. Paralysis from analysis. Its hard to argue with good posture and a deep breath. One of the best examples of what a proper breath should look like(for those suffering analysis paralysis) can be found by looking at a baby breathe.
    Clark Terry said "Sit up straight when you play and take a good full breath. Air is like money in the bank". My knowledge base is too limited to intellectually box with the likes of Clark Terry. I do what Mr. Terry says.
     
  7. jdostie

    jdostie Piano User

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    Feb 20, 2008
    I don't have it with me at the moment, so I will paraphrase Claude Gordon's "Brass Playing is no More Difficult Than Deep Breathing" to the best of my memory. In essence, Claude Gordon "pooh poohed" all the talk of breathing from the diaphragm, pushing the stomach out etc. His basic assertion, as I recall is that we all already know hot to breath, and don't have to "think" about it, it just happens. But, what we do have to think about is things like posture - thinking like an athlete etc, and anything that would inhibit proper breathing (such as slowching). He went on to use a picture of a football player running down a field, basically stating that we'd never see such an athlete sticking his stomach out, but instead would be running with shoulders high, chest up and consequently the stomach in (which is not to say pressing inward against the lungs).

    In essense, Claude Gordon's premise, if I remember correctly was that if we have correct posture and take care of our bodies breathing is something you don't really have to think about - other than doing breathing exercses that will exercise those chest and back muscles (and I will add abdominal muscles) that are used to push air out. Breathing "IN" is something that we all do pretty freely, and I would venture to guess that if you told anyone to take a deep breath, you'd find that (if they weren't already in proper posture) their chest would come up, their shoulders would go back, and then some would expand their stomachs (because they were told to do so). Now, if you keep the chest up and shoulders back, your body does not have to work as hard for the next breath. And, the efficiency of the initial breath will likewise be affected by how much the person allows their chest to rise, shoulders go back etc.

    As to expanding breathing "capacity" I am pretty sure we can effect how efficiently, and how much we can expel of the air in our lungs via exercise of the muscles. However I am unsure how much capacity we can add to the volume of air we take in - in other words can we expand the physical dimentions of our lungs? Or perhaps train our lungs to "feel more comfortable" with more air?

    I know that I can take in more air than I can be comfortable holding and pushing out at a slow/steady pace; there seems to be a "full" and "overfull" state to our lungs . . . Do exercises change the ratio of total lung capacity to "full" state? I don't know. In truth I'm less worried about that than establishing good habits that will instill good breathing.

    Is that more in line with what you were looking for?
     
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I got a PM about this and that got me thinking about this thread again. Here is what I answered:

    pneumologists have a rubber bag that people blow into to check actual breathing volume. I have a good friend that loaned one to me for a couple of days and I discovered all sorts of interesting things. I thought that I had figured it all out, then I met Dave Monette and everything went back to the drawing board.

    My discoveries: sitting up straight was half a liter LESS air than leaning back on the chair (6.2 vs 6.7 liters). Standing up straight and I managed to suck in 7 liters+ 6 out of 10 times. Filling up with those quantities was not relaxed and my playing was crap because I had to exert a fair amount of force to get the air in.

    A couple of years later, after meeting Dave, I learned alot about the choices that we have. With my "new" relaxed approach, I had 6 liters sitting and 6.6 standing - but could comfortably play afterwards.

    As far as the Arban goes, the translation is not good. I read the french as saying to tense the abs proportionally to the amount of air taken in. I don't know if my french Arbans is unabridged, so perhaps somebody had an agenda - that could also apply to the english version though.

    The first version in english with that translation was done by TH Rollinson (1879) for the JW Pepper Corp. They specifically state "revised and compiled". He was an accomplished cornet player so any bets are off.

    If we follow the history a bit, Arban studied in Paris under Francois Dauverné - one of the last accomplished natural trumpet players back then. He wrote a method for trumpet (Méthode pour la trompette (Paris, 1857) Ed Tarr is currently working on the english translation. It will be available through McNaughton) and this covers mostly natural trumpet and funny enough also covers this very same type of breathing. I always pictured it to be similar to the "wedge" which is used often in big band lead playing. There the whole idea is to increase the pressure through the use of the abdominal muscles.

    Johan Ernst Altenburg also gives us some indication that backs up the big band theory " a stronger current of air and closer contraction of the teeth and lips have the biggest advantage". Daniel Speer(1687) even gets into a bit more detail "There are few private persons who learn this instrument because it requires great bodily exertion.

    So no 100% evidence, but the pieces fit together so well (for my head anyway) and that is why I never got hung up on it.

    Europeans generally do not have the obsession with "big" sound that the Americans do. This is also born out in instrument design. That is another reason why Arbans method could be "harmless".

    So to answer your question, yes, if we contract the abs, we probably would take in less air, BUT depending on what and how we are playing, that could have an advantage in air pressure. Let's not forget that Arban cleaned up as a soloist back then.


    So, if some of you really want to get hung up on this Arban sentence, grab a magic marker and blot it out. Just don't forget, Arban was hundreds of times better than most of us, was a conservatory professor and cranked out great students. His method WORKS, even if the skeptics with an obsession for maximum air can't bend this into the framework of their narrow scope of what is acceptable. This is a CONSERVATORY method, designed for presentation by somebody in the know. The DIY (or was that DWI?) player might have trouble putting this into perspective.

    For more information:

    J. B. Arban
     

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