Monday, November 27, 2006

Quiet, quick, full breaths on flute

A flutist wrote:
Often when I take a big breath during a piece, it sounds a bit like a gasp. I am trying to quiet my breaths, but sometimes in doing so, I don't get enough air.
Dear breathing person,
There's some terrific breathing information in the book by Sheryl Cohen called "Bell Canto - The Rampal School." about breathing in between fast, short notes, or large intervals.

The trick is bouncing the diaphragm and letting the air inhale by itself on the rebound. Very useful for continuous Baroque-style staccato music.
She explains it fully with many examples of pieces that require the technique.
This is a great book, full of sheetmusic and instructions, and a very valuable workbook for the advanced intermediate player, as it draws on the advice the author received over three years of studying with Rampal and Marion.

William Bennett also wrote about quiet, fast, deep breaths in an article online about his studying breathing with Janet Baker (singer.)
That information is linked through this article:

With my students I recommend the Bennett advice first: Feel the temperature of the air on the back of the throat. That opens the throat wider and taller, and also causes the diaphragm to drop down faster, creating a large vacuum that draws the air in without any additional effort.
I also advise:
- mark all your breathing spots in pencil (and even your "extra" breathing spots in brackets) so that you get used to guaging the air flow up to the breath mark
- don't expect to play a piece under tempo, while learning it, without adding extra breaths to keep the tone quality. You can remove added breaths as the tempo gradually increases over days or weeks.
- alter your piece's dynamics to softer levels at first to allow the phrase to sound well before you take each breath. Later, you can work the phrases back up to the written dynamic, but playing softer at first makes you discover how to monitor your air use without straining.
- conserve air in certain long passages (my teacher used to write "save air" over specific passages) so that you easily make it to the next breath mark without strain. This may mean playing more softly and with a more focussed embouchure for certain phrases.
- as required add extra partial breaths (hidden breathing points) at certain points in the phrase so that you can top-up a previous lung full of air. You want to make sure you are never playing tensely or on too little air. Two good CDs for listening to this technique is James Galway's Bach Sonatas or Italian Concerti.
- fully release all torso tension (pushing tension) as you end each phrase so that the torso is up, relaxed and easily fills up with air again. A tense, push-push-push feeling in the lungs can lead to loud, laboured breathing. A light buoyancy in the lungs, and a raised ribcage, ready to receive more air, leads to quick, quiet breathing.
- yawn your vocal cords out of the way when you breathe in. They tuck into a fold inside your throat. Figure out how to do this, and practice doing it separately, during longtones, for example, where there is no pressure on you to also breathe quickly.

Hope these tips help,
Comments (1)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! Thankyou for the advice! :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:12:00 AM


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