Good and Bad Breathing

Check out this video demonstrating good and bad breathing.

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Balance and Breathing

Good breathing requires good balance, right through the core.

When we sit or stand, our bones are designed to provide the framework for this balance; they counteract the ongoing effect of gravity.

Balance is a lively, internal sensation. It is experienced internally and kinisthetically as a sense of buoyancy and lightness. Most importantly, when we achieve balance, our technique becomes effortless and we have increased endurance because we aren’t distracted by using muscles to hold ourselves up.

When we are balanced, our breathing is free and efficient. All the subtle and organic motions of breathing can happen easily and naturally, as they were intended. Balance provides the framework for excellent breathing which is the basis for great music-making.

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Vibrato and breathing

Don’t use puffs of air to create vibrato because this will undermine your tone quality.

It may feel like you are being expressive when you do this, but it does not sound good! Once you begin to change the air flow in this way, your articulation will also suffer.

Keep the air moving like a locomotive!

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Diaphragm video

Check out the new diaphragm video link under Breathing Resources…

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Tell your story

Do you have an interesting breathing story?

Have you heard a breathing myth you would like de-bunked?

Perhaps you had a misunderstanding about breathing…and when you learned the facts your breathing improved.

Let’s hear from you!

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Breathing Quotes

“The lungs do not fill up like a pitcher filling with water from the bottom up. Air goes to all sections of the lungs at the same time.”   Page 40 of Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs compiled by Bruce Nelson

“Our breathing reflects every emotional or physical effort and every disturbance.”   Page 37 of Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais

“To have a minimum of stress, and therefore of strain, within the body, not only must the structure as a whole be in balanced relation with the outside forces, but each part must be in balance with every other part within the system.”   Page 56 of The Thinking Body by Mabel Todd

“Like circulation and digestion, breathing is a natural function, and the only way it can be improved is to create the right conditions in the whole organism by changing unnecessary tension patterns within the body that interfere with it.”   Page 135 of Body Learning by Michael Gelb

“Breathe to expand, don’t expand to breathe.”   Page 44 of Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs compiled by Bruce Nelson

“The activity of both sets of muscles, the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles, varies reciprocally. Thus, during inspiration the tonus of the diaphragm increases while that of the abdominal muscles decreases, and vice-versa during expiration. Hence there exists between these two muscle groups a floating equilibrium constantly shifting in both directions.”   Page 143 of The Body Moveable by David Gorman

“In order to recognize small changes in effort, the effort itself must first be reduced. More delicate and improved control of movement is possible only through the increase of sensitivity, through a greater ability to sense differences.”   Page 59 of Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais

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Handling the Naysayers

I have posted some of this information on the various forums which proliferate the internet. The responses to my postings have run the gamut from gratitude to vehement disagreement (to put it nicely!).

Few things in music are objective; rhythm comes to mind – either the phrase is in time or it’s not. The mechanics of breathing are also in this category; either you are moving well and breathing well or you are not. How one moves to breathe is not a matter of opinion, it is science.

The subjective part of breathing comes from how we choose to teach it and what we choose to think in order to do it well. Some teachers say “breathe like you are filling up a glass of water” as a metaphorical way of teaching breathing. This phrase is debunked elsewhere on this blog, but for now, I wanted to delve into the motivation for saying such a thing.

The moment the student hears the phrase, they are obligated to move in the way that it suggests. They will literally try to move their bodies as though the air travels to the bottom first and then upward a little at a time. If this motion were not really what the teacher intended then why did the teacher say this? Once the phrase is introduced, the motion is dictated.

“But I didn’t mean to take the phrase quite so literally…” rebuts the teacher. OK…then why did you say it? Once the phrase is introduced, the student will move in that way. If the student is not supposed to move in that way, then why introduce the phrase? It is a Mobius Strip of cause and effect which is unavoidable.

Don’t perpetuate myths that could not possibly be true. Let’s reserve subjective metaphors for subjective musical variables such as phrasing or vibrato. Breathing belongs in the objective category along with rhythm and intonation.

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