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Trumpet Discussion Discuss How do I breathe and exhale deeply? in the General forums; Hi. Just some background info first- I've been playing for about 5 1/2 years and I play on a Bach ...
  1. #1
    New Friend trumpetandbass535's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Nazareth, PA

    How do I breathe and exhale deeply?

    Hi. Just some background info first- I've been playing for about 5 1/2 years and I play on a Bach Stradivarius with a 3C mouthpiece (not sure of the brand.) For the past 2-3 weeks, during my lessons, my teacher has told me that I "am not taking deep breaths and not filling the horn with enough air." He says that because of this, I am not getting a good, open tone and I am not able to play as well as I could if I could take a deep breath. How do I do this? I tried his suggestions, but they didn't really work (i.e. visualising the belly being filled with air, placing your hand on your stomach while lying down.) Help! This is extremely frustrating!

  2. #2
    Pianissimo User
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    Oct 2006
    Try playing while inhaling throught your nose. It well help you identify the right airflow passage to the belly and then you can find it while inhaling through your mouth.

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    Moderator Utimate User rowuk's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    I am not sure you have the whole story. Enough air is critical and you surely are capable of breathing deeply. After you take that deep breath, the most critical moment comes - change from inhale to exhale without tightening the throat or trying to hold the air in. You MUST immediately EXHALE after filling up. Holding the air in or tightening the throat will DESTROY your sound.
    If you have been breathing wrong, have patience, it will take time to break the terrible habit. This is why a good teacher is necessary from day one.

    The quality of your sound is not linear to the amount of air that you intake (there will be great debate on this point). The big breath is there to make other factors function properly.
    I teach: inhale deeply and when you are full up, immediately start to exhale. Practice this without tonguing. Inhale-exhale. You can also put a cardboard tube (like from a toilet paper roll) in your mouth and practice "openly" inhaling-exhaling. Be careful not to hyperventilate when practicing - if you black out, you may not be practicing further for a while!
    Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

  4. #4
    Mezzo Piano User Derek Reaban's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    I’m with rowuk and trumpet520 on this one! Here’s some input to support these ideas and expand on what has already been said.

    Here are two excerpts related to posture and breathing from a masterclass that I attended given by David Krauss (Principal Trumpet with the Metropolitan Opera in New York). You may enjoy reading the entire post (click on the blue link).

    The Posture

    David stressed that there are three things that are critical when you watch any fine singer in any role…sitting up, laying down, jumping through the air…Posture is always present. Posture in this case means:
    • • The head is always back,
      • the shoulders are always down, and
      • the chest is always in a prominent position.

    When you watch the greatest trumpet players, the same aspects of posture are always present. He said, “there’s no excuse for me to be sitting in the pit in my tuxedo in a comfortable chair and not have this set-up”.

    Then he got to one of my favorite illustrations of his entire presentation. He told us that he is a Dad with twin 7-year-old boys that are both very into Superman and Batman. He said, “When you watch these cartoons…” and then he imitated what you would expect to see a Superhero do, “chest is out…Superman…ready to go!” I just loved that example! By taking a Superhero pose, a very vivid image is created in my mind, and posture naturally follows from this very simple mental queue.

    What a Singer Looks Like When They Breathe

    This portion of David’s presentation was very telling of the influence that the vocalists at the Met have had on him. He said, “most of the progress that I have made lately in my playing is directly related to watching singers breathe. You never see a singer take a big gulping breath.” He said that when singers breathe their breaths are varied in speed and are generally slower than those of instrumentalists. Then he made a reference to Enrico Caruso and said Caruso would advocate nose breathing because not only does it slow the inflow rate, it puts the air in a better place, setting up a Superhero pose. So, in essence, this posture allows you to take a good breath, and this type of breathing sets up good posture! I think that is a HUGE concept! Everyday that I have practiced since the conference, I have been very conscious of breathing through my nose and envisioning Superman. I am literally putting myself in a position to arrive at some of my very best sounds! This posture then dovetails into the next very important concept.

    I recently had a lesson with David and he suggested that my intake breath was too fast and I would benefit from a slower nose breath when there was time (especially the first phrase of a piece). He commented again about Caruso’s suggestion and provided me with the specific reference:

    The tone once launched, one must think how it may be properly sustained, and this is where the art of breathing is most concerned. The lungs, in the first place, should be thoroughly filled. A tone begun with only half filled lungs loses half its authority and is very apt to be false in pitch. To take a full breath properly, the chest must be raised at the same moment the abdomen sinks in. Then with the gradual expulsion of the breath a contrary movement takes place. The diaphragm and elastic tissue surrounding and containing the stomach and vital organs and the muscles surrounding, by practice acquire great strength and assist considerably in this process of respiration and are vital factors in the matter of controlling the supply which supports the tone. The diaphragm is really like a pair of bellows and serves exactly the same purpose. It is this ability to take in an adequate supply of breath and to retain it until required that makes or, by contrary, mars all singing. A singer with a perfect sense of pitch and all the good intentions possible will often sing off the key and bring forth a tone with no vitality to it, distressing to hear, simply for lack of breath control.

    This art of respiration once acquired, the student has gone a considerable step on the road to Parnassus.

    To practice deep breathing effectively it is an excellent plan to breathe through the nose, which aids in keeping the confined breath from escaping too soon. The nose also warms and filters the air, making it much more agreeable to the lungs than if taken directly through the mouth. In the practice of slow breathing make sure that the lungs are as nearly emptied as possible on the expulsion of the breath before beginning a new inspiration, as this gives extra impetus to the fresh supply of air and strengthens all the breathing muscles.

    If this is not done, moreover, the effect is like two people trying to get in and out of the same narrow door at the same time.

    Hope these ideas are helpful to you. Discuss them with your teacher and have him help you incorporate them into your daily playing!
    Derek Reaban
    Tempe, Arizona

  5. #5
    Mezzo Piano User Derek Reaban's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    To continue with the idea of turning the air around immediately that rowuk mentioned, here are some great quotes from Jay Friedman and John Hagstrom from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Manny Laureano (one of our TM resident experts).

    Releasing vs. Pushing or Forcing-------

    The key to defining “releasing” is to look at the very beginning of the exhale and the very end of the exhale.

    At the Beginning of the Exhale:

    An air delivery system that focuses on the concept of active air, passive body (a proper weakness of the respiratory muscles) leads to sound without comparison. I love these quotes from Jay Friedman and Manny Laureano, “A column of air produces maximum resonance when the muscles around it are completely at rest.” “Tense abs, no air. Loose abs, lots of air”. "Strength is my enemy, weakness is my friend".
    Jay Friedman Quote:
    If the air starts quickly enough, then the body can stay relaxed and assume its vital function as a resonating chamber. If the air starts too slow, then the body must push air in the middle of the note, AND THE WHOLE THING IS RUINED. I can not stress the importance of this statement enough.

    There is a really great article by John Hagstrom (from the Chicago Symphony) where he provides some good comments related to your question:

    He says, "The biggest misconception of Chicago Symphony high brass tone production: It is that we are blowing huge quantities of air through the instrument in the way the trombones and tuba do. This is false, but it is not hard to see how this misconception starts and spreads. Everyone has been told at one time or another in their training to use more air support, which gets distilled down into 'Use more air!'

    At first, our sense of what it feels like to use more air is rather crude, but our efforts in that direction pay off handsomely. Tone and consistency improve, but

    the improvement is the result of air being put into the position of starting the sound,

    with the lips and tongue being much more of a reaction to the air. Even so, the player may improperly conclude that it was the quantity of air that made the difference, when it really was

    the immediacy and the compression of the air that were responsible for the improvements.

    In fact, the trumpets and horns are blowing much harder than the trombones and tuba, but much less air quantity actually goes into the trumpet and horns, especially in the high register.

    The goal of efficient high brass tone production is to have

    the action of the air at the beginning of the tone generation process.

    Combined with a strong and healthy mental image of what the player is trying to sound like, the lips and tongue will gradually begin to react in balance with the air to create the desired sound."

    Summary: If there is even a slight hesitation (say, less than a sixteenth note) between your inhale and exhale, you will not be “releasing”. You will be pushing and you will have introduced tension into the breathing. You will know when you are doing it right, because everything you play will feel unusually easy. When you lose concentration, this hesitation can creep back into your playing, and you will be pushing again. It’s very subtle and very obvious all at the same time!
    Derek Reaban
    Tempe, Arizona

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