Breathing?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by adamrapa, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. B15M

    B15M Forte User

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    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    I think about breathing when I play but I don't have a routine.

    I try for a slow big breath in and relax out.
    Usually, I don't do it when I'm not thinking about it. I guess I just don't have enough time to practise.
     
  2. adamrapa

    adamrapa New Friend

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    Jun 17, 2008
    Seattle
    Well, to be honest, breathing is kind of over-rated. Personally, I think it's for wimps. It may look like I'm breathing, but that's just for show. I haven't actually inhaled since 1997.

    That's right kids, breathing is for wimps. You heard it here.

    :-) Sorry, I just had to. Wanted to see if you were paying attention.


    I'm an avid Yoga practitioner. As long as my schedule permits, I like spending an hour and a half per day, but that's not always an option. Once I've got a manager to deal with all of the crap that goes along with being a self-employed musician, it'll be seven days a week for sure. Either that or I need to pioneer a new kind of yoga involving a laptop... Plus, hundreds of breaths throughout my day - everyday - are deep, mindful and carry away any lingering tension and mind-chatter. Isn't it just incredible how one awesome breath can change everything?

    There are lots of ways to exercise your lungs and expand your lung capacity. All are perfectly valid.

    The most common setback I see in many people's playing is actually the way they exhale. Lots of players use far more muscles in their upper body than necessary to compress their air for playing, like the intercostal muscles for instance. With so much excess tension in the upper body, it's almost impossible to release every single muscle fast enough to be completely relaxed for the next inhale, especially if there's only enough time for a really quick breath.

    The great benefit of being completely relaxed for your inhale is that your exhale can be much more relaxed as well. And I think we'd all agree, the easier, the better, right?

    By relaxing the muscles in between all of your ribs and allowing them to stretch wider than usual when you breath in, they'll naturally recoil when you stop inhaling, which creates a lot of great compression for playing. Once your diaphragm is finished creating the vacuum that draws air into your lungs, the ribs will return to their natural state all by themselves, without any need to tighten them. Compression comes as a natural act of the muscles relaxing back to normal - just like a balloon that's been filled to capacity and then let go. This, along with a little added "oomph" from the diaphragm is all it takes for me, no matter how high or loud. Of course this is also because I "crimp the hose" with the back part of my tongue which adds all the extra PSI (pressure) necessary for extreme volume and range. But that's a whole other topic....

    It may look like I'm working harder than I'm describing when I perform, but it really is just an act. Sadly, a lot of people listen with their EYES as much as their ears. (Just look at Pop music...) The more exciting you look while you play, the greater your playing is perceived by a lot of people. It’s sad but true. I’ll put a little bend in the back on that double ‘A’ for show, my face is red, and my eyebrows may scare small children, but my muscles are NOT tight. I’m still completely focused on relaxing and letting the notes flow like water down a stream. When I practice, I look extremely boring. :-)

    Well, there's the Readers Digest version. I hope somebody finds this helpful, because I ended up spending much more time than expected. What have I gotten myself into?...

    One Love,

    Adam


    P.S. Here are a couple of videos highlighting my feature concerts at ITG '08 if you're interested:

    part 1: YouTube - Adam Rapa - ITG '08 Guest Artist - Part 1
    part 2: YouTube - Adam Rapa - ITG '08 Guest Artist - Part 2

    www.adamrapa.com
     
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  3. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Adam,

    Stunning playing by the way.

    What you're saying aligns with the good players I've got to spend time with. That a quality inhale leads to a relaxed exhale...compressed if need be, yes...but nevertheless very free. The common theme is the abolition of tension.

    I spent a lot of years playing tuba where 'relaxed' is not optional...you either breath efficiently on both the inhale and the exhale, producing the note on a river of air, or you pass out in the middle of the phrase. What is, of course, different is the compression needed to play in the higher register on a trumpet. Is that compression actually as natural as the process of the release of the breath out or has your muscular system become so atuned to the 'effort' over years that you don't notice it?

    Regards,


    Trevor

    PS I don't follow any prescribed routine with breaths other than just getting everything flowing before putting the mouthpiece anywhere near my lips. I spend a minute concentrating on smooth inhales and the immediate turnround of air into smooth exhale..then play.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
  4. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

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    Jun 11, 2006
    Adam.

    Please take some time to start a new thread on "crimping the hose."
    As you know, I am very interested in getting this right.
    I have two people I can probably get a lesson from, Jim Manly and the new trumpet teacher at University of Missouri, St. Louis. It would be good to hear from you first.

    Here is a question. At what pitch do you start "crimping the hose?" This should be under a new thread if you start one. I start at B flat below high C. An A comes easy but I use the tongue level to really get a good pitch on up.
     
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    Time to toss the good 'ol Vulgano "RAY OF POWER" into the ring again:

    The finicky thing about air is that, yeah, we must learn the mechanics but then forget about them, because under the stress of performance, as tension sets in, our bodies will lie to us, and it will feel like we're moving huge amounts of air, breathing deeply and supporting when in fact, we are not!

    For this reason, I rely on some Vulgano Voodoo and the RAY OF POWER. It involves the Root Chakra, which is located directly at the base of the spine, also known as the coccyx. The chakras have their own mystic qualities, I guess. I don't know for sure, but they do seem to be located in parts of the body where bunches of nerves meet. (The Vulgano version is situated half way between the places we do our number one and number two in the restroom.)

    In practice and in theory, imagine (and feel) a ray of some sort (red is the most common mystic color associated with the root chakra) shooting down into the ground while playing. For high notes, imagine (and feel) a more intense ray. If we practice this sitting in a chair, we can notice all kinds of muscles come into play, which happen to be the same muscles used to "support" the air stream. By taking attention off of the mechanics and experiencing the mysterious, magical and not yet patented RAY OF POWER we can avoid some of the tension involved in "trying hard."

    Nothing mysterious and magical here really, but the RAY OF POWER does permit me to play with a relaxed but working body.
     
  6. adamrapa

    adamrapa New Friend

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    Jun 17, 2008
    Seattle
    "Is that compression actually as natural as the process of the release of the breath out or has your muscular system become so atuned to the 'effort' over years that you don't notice it?"


    Great question Trevor. I used to flex practically every muscle in my whole body to compress my air for playing high. That did really great things for me: tension headaches, seeing stars (or seeing nothing but black), even vomited one time right after a strenuous big band gig. Awesome. Then came the day I started relying on my tongue to create the compression, and all that crap went away. Yes, my torso really is that relaxed, and there's just an upward & inward action of the diaphragm (or "Wedge" if you wanna call it that).

    I made a career of dancing while playing from 2001 to 2007, in the show "Blast!" but much more so in the sequels we've done, where we got rid of marching all together and really pushed the limits of truly dancing while playing. I started REALLY discovering efficiency then, when being relaxed the whole time was the only way you could do the job well. Sunday matinees were especially efficient, after a week of burning the candle at both ends and spending Friday/Saturday out on the town.... you really learn to move and play with the bare minimum of exertion. What looks like heavy effort in my performance is really as fluid as dance.

    For players out there who play with lots of extra tension, try practicing while you're completely exhausted - it just might help. :-)

    Adam

    www.adamrapa.com
     
  7. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

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    Jun 11, 2006
    We have often seen a Jim Manly youtube where he demonstrates crimping the hose and therefore makes it look easy. I need to see him.

    I remember reading that Maynard Ferguson thought the band had lost some star power so he told the trumpets to make it look harder than it really was.
     
  8. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Adam,

    I'll be looking forward to your ideas on 'crimping the hose' in a future instalment.

    What did Dave M say about you dancing around with one of his babies?


    Regards,


    Trevor
     
  9. adamrapa

    adamrapa New Friend

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    Jun 17, 2008
    Seattle
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
  10. adamrapa

    adamrapa New Friend

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    Jun 17, 2008
    Seattle
    Crimping the hose....... Not sure that I'm ready to open that can of worms here yet. I'm quite good at verbally explaining my technique in a fairly short period of time, but when I sat down to articulate it on paper, I ended up with a book. Message-board material, it is not. I will say this, however: There's only an infinitesimal difference between whistling and playing for me.

    You guys are nice and all, but we've only been on a few dates... I think we should take it slow... :-)

    I'll make a series of technique videos right after I record this next album. In the meantime, my door's always open for lessons. Check out the iBrass page on my website if you're interested.

    I leave you with a fantastic quite from a pretty smart guy:

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

    Adam

    www.adamrapa.com
     

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