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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Big Breath in the General forums; This may prove to be a dumb question but I have to ask. Why does taking a good full breath ...
  1. #1
    Pianissimo User Principaltrumpet's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
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    Big Breath

    This may prove to be a dumb question but I have to ask. Why does taking a good full breath help so much in playing. I try to take the best breath I can everytime I breath. I find that when something is not working right I am usually taking smaller shorter breaths. If I take a breath where I get the relief feeling like in a yawn it comes perfect. I guess I just dont understand why filling your lungs does more than allowing you to play longer and louder. Any Ideas?
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  2. #2
    Forte User stchasking's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    Quote Originally Posted by Principaltrumpet View Post
    This may prove to be a dumb question but I have to ask. Why does taking a good full breath help so much in playing. I try to take the best breath I can every time I breath. I find that when something is not working right I am usually taking smaller shorter breaths. If I take a breath where I get the relief feeling like in a yawn it comes perfect. I guess I just don't understand why filling your lungs does more than allowing you to play longer and louder. Any Ideas?
    I talked to Carol Dawn Reinhart about this. We were watching her videos of her performances and I told her I could not see her breath. She is motionless when she performs. She said she takes sips of air. I did not question further. She learned to play from the age of 4 and she plays with natural air.
    For the repetoir (sic) that Carol played the sips of air worked for her. My opinion is that her technique was so well developed that breathing was secondary. I, too, have found that the more I work on technique the less air I need so my frustration level is lower. I think that is the clue. If your fingers can do the walking then the air gets easier. If I have the least apprehension on my technique my breathing suffers. I am drowning.

    Also, I am trying to memorize some of my recreational solo music. Again, when my fingers work automatically my breathing is a lot more efficient.

    If you get to Vienna she will probably give you a master class style lesson. She is accessible.

    "I was performing professionally at age 17 and have never had a real job." Allen Vizzutti

  3. #3
    Moderator Utimate User Vulgano Brother's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    I don't think this a dumb question but a genuine one. I am much better at answering dumb questions, but I'll try a couple of different answers. The first is a series of quotes from Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics by Arther H. Benade (Monette's tame acoustician) concerning the larynx as a self-sustaining oscillatory flow controller:

    1. Fluids (including air) tend to flow from regions of high pressure toward regions where the pressure is low.
    2. As a consequence of the influence of pressure on fluid flow, we recognize that if we see an increasing flow velocity of a fluid as it moves from one point to another in its travels, we we can deduce that the pressure at a high-velocity spot must be lower than at the low-velocity point from which the fluid came. One cannot speed anything up without arranging to have an excess of force acting behind it.

    So speaketh Benade.

    One of the reasons that a full breath helps is our ability to apply just the right "excess of force" (even if that is 'nil') for the tones that come out our instrument.

    As reed-vibrators come, our lips tend to have way, way too much mass for the frequency produced. A physical model would have to include a couple of springs, masses, and some viscous grease, and some air behind it. Air pressure is the easiest variable to control in the science lab and inside our own bodies, and whenever we don't have that "excess of force" at out beck and call we tend to suck. I think that is what Benade was trying to say.

    The second is that we need relaxed but working bodies when playing, and this brings us from the the physiological into the psychological areas of playing.

    My body lies to me almost all the time. I suspect everyone's does, but to make a bold statement like "your body lies to you" would make me some weird sort of TM prophet, in inspite of its possible rightfullness.

    I would propose, that for most of us, when we "thought" we were sucking huge amounts of air into our lungs, we really weren't, that we were measuring resistance rather than flow.

    Let us all learn to practice to breathe.

    Not all that complicated, is it?

    (Danged hard, though!)
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  4. #4
    Forte User Jimi Michiel's Avatar
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    Mar 2005

    Re: Big Breath


    This is definitely not a dumb question, but definitely a very hard one to answer succinctly. There are two schools of thought. As I understand them, one school of thought is to take in only as much air as you think you will need. The other school of thought is to take in giant quantities of air, more than you "need." I have always subscribed to the second school, that you need to take in as much air as possible all the time. I'm sure there are advantages to both ways and there are great players on each side (and in the middle), but I've never known the other half.

    I recently took over a studio of junior high and high school kids. The teacher before me was very good, but I found that most of the kids were taking small breaths. My job for these first few lessons has been to convince them to breath more, and deeper. I've made this case about 40 times in the last two weeks, and I think I'm getting pretty decent at it. Here are a few things I tell them:

    -If you divide your lungs into two halves, you want to breath from the top half. That's the "good stuff" and it's the first to go. If you only fill up half way, you're playing on the bottom half, or the "bad stuff." Then you take a breath and play a scale in slow half notes, even if you can go up and down, invariably the tone quality is going to be better at the beginning than at the end. Whether talking or playing, as you get to the end of your air, you're going to tense up, which will cause the quality of the sound to decrease.

    -Yawning really is a great way to breath. I tell my kids this so they aren't afraid to yawn if I get talking and they get sleepy... One of the dangers of breathing is tensing up--if you tense up during the intake, your outtake is compromised before it even begins! Taking a big, relaxed breath is as important as a lining up in the right place on the football field--if you make a mistake, you're not even giving yourself the chance to be successful.

    -Your brain runs on oxygen. I find that I make fewer mental errors when I'm breathing well. This could be because I'm not worried about my air, but it could also be because my brain is getting the oxygen it needs to think about rhythm, music, intonation, the cute blond in the back of the second violins.... (that last part is omitted for my grade school kids, they all play in band and don't know anything about cute blond violinists)

    -The breathing mechanism is like a pendulum, you're naturally going to breath out in much the same way you breath in. It's very difficult to take a bad breath and produce a good sound, and I make sure to tell my students that it's hard to take a good breath and make a bad sound. A corollary to this deals with air speed--I've always thought of my air going out as a slow, warm, fog. I'm an orchestral player (for the most part) and thinking this helps me get a nice, warm sound. When I did a lot of shows and commercial stuff, I sped up my air to get a bright, more brilliante sound. The easiest way to do this, for me at least, was to speed up my intake. And get horn that weighs about 3lbs less than my orchestral horn

    Just a few thoughts. This is an important topic, so hopefully we'll get some more discussion on this.


  5. #5
    Fortissimo User trumpetnick's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimi Michiel View Post
    A corollary to this deals with air speed--I've always thought of my air going out as a slow, warm, fog.-Jimi
    Air speed...Jimi, that's a dangerous place to go, risk of long discussions with no much of real benefit is real high

    Anyway, the big, deep and relaxed breath, explained by Jimi is the way to go, weather you do classical, commercial or jazz. I like the way Anthony Parsons explains it:
    "Warm air produces warm sound"

    Logically, to get that warm air you need a deeeep breath. Everyone likes warm sound.

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  6. #6
    Piano User Bloomin Untidy Musician's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    Mendez says in his video on you tube that you no need no more air than when talking to play the trumpet. Although i used to belong to the yawning big deep breath school of thought, i am increasingly becoming seduced by the "take as much breath as you require school of thought"; letting my embouchure and air focus do more work than forcing vast quantities of air through the instrument (i realise that you are not talking about the exhalation of a breath). Either way i suppose it is not about how much air you breathe in, but how relaxed you do it.

    Inhalation of air will NOT affect your cognitive abilities when reading music as long as you are not blowing on the "scraps of your lungs" for lengthy periods. Brain functions won't be affected unless it is deprived of air.

  7. #7
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    Re: Big Breath

    My take on this subject comes from two sources. I am a rather accomplished rifle marksman as well as being a mediocre trumpet player. Both disciplines require a controlled usage of oxygen, not just any kind of air. With rifle competition marksmanship oxygen depletion causes the body muscles to quiver and shake. This is totally counterproductive to fine muscle control,( holding solidly on a very fine sight picture ). The first sign of oxygen depletion is a reduction in visual acuity. The sight picture starts to get fuzzy. Next is the proverbial waver of the rifle. No accomplished rifle or pistol bullseye shooter EVER allows their body to become so depleted of oxygen.

    For both endeavors the oxygen content of the air within the lungs can be regulated by not the type of inhalation, but, by proper and total exhalation immediately prior to the deep breath. This means that all of the inhaled air within the lungs is heavily oxygenated. The animal body does NOT run on air, but, rather, upon oxygen. If we simply "sip" our air into the lungs, we are only using the air in the very top of our lungs and need to replenish VERY frequently. This 'might' be O.K. for some musical forms, but, I have yet to discover which they might be. Every chart that I have encountered thus far requires some long phrases that must be played in a long continuity. This means to me That my rifle competition training and Carmine Caruso's breathing exercises have stood me in good stead while playing the trumpet.

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  8. #8
    Piano User BergeronWannabe's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    Support. Without it, I believe you are putting undue tension on the lips. As you know, stress of
    any kind effects all aspects of playing- tone, range, endurance, etc.
    My 2 cents...Andrew

  9. #9
    Pianissimo User ejaime23's Avatar
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    Re: Big Breath

    I'll take a stab at this. Aside from the answers that we already know, support, etc, from personal experience, I try to make trumpet feel as natural possible, with that in mind, if I focus on taking a large, deep, and relaxed breath, the air wants to naturally escape from my body. When I do that, not only does it allow me to take in more air, but also sets up the air column (throat, oral cavity, etc) wide and open so I can transfer that to playing the instrument. Something I have my students do is to take a good breath and play the first line of Cichowicz without altering the air flow in any way, even letting the sound die if they run out of air, in other words, just let the air come out naturally, without reserving the air for the end of the phrase. The result is usually a big, focused, resonant sound with no tension whatsoever. Now it's pretty easy to do that with something like Cichowicz, but that's a concept that I try to apply to the whole field of trumpet playing. That initial breath determines, the quality of my sound, not because it determines whether or not I'm filling up the horn, but because it determines how much tension there is in my body, due to having to push air out. One of the things I feel we take for granted as trumpet players it the amount of resistance we have to deal with. Unlike low brass players which have very little to no resistance, the resistance makes it possible for us to create an ok sound without filling up the horn, but when put side to side, it's pretty easy to tell which sound pleases the ears the most, my $0.02
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  10. #10
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    Re: Big Breath

    Sam Krauss called it mouthfuls of air. That's all I take in.
    Watch Allen Vizzutti use a similar technique. Observe that his exhales a very relaxed, he is not fighting to hold air in.
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