Handling the Naysayers – Band Directors

Band directors hate it when they see students lifting the shoulders in a contrived effort to take a big breath. In a sort of knee jerk reaction to seeing this, many band directors will say “breathe low” or “fill up your belly” or “don’t move your shoulders.”

I agree that lifting the shoulders in this contrived way is a bad thing but even when we breathe properly, there is some incidental shoulder motion. The danger in telling students not to move the shoulders is that they might actively hold them down and that’s not right either! The answer is somewhere in the middle.

So what’s a band director to do?

Too much attention on the inhale often results in some sort of problem. Musicians produce the tone when they blow, not when they inhale. I propose we focus on the blowing and the sound that results from good breath support. Furthermore, band directors who can demonstrate good breathing and the resulting good tone are way ahead of those who can’t.

I would think the best case scenario would be for the band director to stand on the podium demonstrating each instrument. When the students see the good breathing technique and hear the resulting good tone, they will begin to make healthy attachments between the two. A sound is worth 1,000 words to a musician and the earlier we can create these healthy connections, the better.


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