Don’t forget to breathe…

The student is nervous. It is her first jury – the end of her first semester as a college freshman. She is a music education major.

She loves playing trombone; she has practiced diligently. She has a good accompanist and she is well prepared.

Yet…the student is nervous.

The first couple of phrases go well. She plays with a good, full tone and good technique. Then…a missed note…an out of tune note…a tricky articulation that does not go as planned.

Next, a very strange thing happens. She cannot finish the next phrase in one breath as planned. She must breathe where she never breathed before. This throws her off and the whole cycle starts over: missed note…out of tune note…tricky articulation…and the mistakes seem self-perpetuating.

How does she break the cycle, or better yet – how does she avoid getting sucked into the cycle to begin with?

1. Realize that everybody gets nervous. It is not practical to expect a complete lack of nerves.

2. As well prepared as you might be – prepare even more. Sustained, patient effort over the course of the semester will pay off.

3. Don’t forget to breathe. In any situation, 5 minutes of attention to breathing can change one’s outlook. Before going on stage, lie down and breathe – just observe your breathing…don’t try to change it. you can also try some constructive rest. Here’s a sound file guiding you through a sample session: Constructive Rest.

  1. #1 by Dr. George Ellwanger on September 6, 2016 - 3:23 pm

    I earned my bachelors and masters degrees in music ed. and trombone performance in the early to mid 1980s. After a short stint in various bands of the US Air Force, I earned my doctorate in chiropractic. I practiced for 20+ years concentrating on a particular area of the spine (upper cervical, or AO joint in the upper neck) a technique called Atlas Orthogonal (or AO) Chiropractic.
    I can say without hesitation that Dr. Vining’s writings on these anatomical aspects of the body and brass performance are spot on.
    Balance is what life is about and making music reflects that balance. Making music also requires that balance. It’s an interesting cyclical process that occurs in many activities.
    The head balances on the atlas at the top of the spine (on top of the atlas) and the spine balances on the lower part of the the spine (sacrum), pelvis (ilia, or some may call them the hip bones), and extremities (legs), whether standing or sitting. Prolonged deviation from this balance causes excess muscular involvement in purely holding the spine and head in correct position.
    Love your work, Dr. Vining!

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