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Breath Control

The following are checkpoints for the use of the breath:
  • The breath is taken in through the mouth.
  • As your flute playing develops, you will be able to use your breath more efficiently because your embouchure will be developed to the point where more breath is used for producing tone and is not wasted.
  • For the in-breath, imagine quickly filling a bag of sand from the bottom to the top.
  • The shoulders should not rise during the in-breath.
  • For the out-breath, imagine squeezing the breath out like a tube of toothpaste, from the bottom to the top.
  • Let the lower abdomen expand on the in-breath, and keep the feeling of expansion and support on the outbreath.
  • Think of breathing out a focused stream of air, as though you were breathing out through a narrow straw.
    Michel Dubost, in his book The Simple Flute, describes it this way:
    • Fast air - cold air - descending center of gravity - intervals ascending - high notes
    • Slow air - hot air - relaxed belt - open throat - intervals descending - low notes
  • The tongue and throat remain relaxed during the breath. This prevents interference with the in-breath and constriction during the out-breath.
  • To open the throat, think of yawning. This is beneficial for the in-breath as well as the out-breath.

Breathing Exercises

These exercises will improve the ability to take in the breath quickly and use the out-breath to support the sound.
  • Repeat the following 3 times. increasing the length of the out-breath by 5 seconds a week until you can breath out for a full minute:
    • Stand with your weight balanced evenly over your feet.
    • Silently say the word "How" as you breath in quickly, feeling the temperature of the air against the back of your throat.
    • With the in-breath, expand your stomach, and feel the air filling your lungs from the bottom to the top.
    • Do not lift the shoulders with the in-breath.
    • Keeping the feeling of expansion and support in your stomach muscles, breath out, imagining you are breathing out through a straw.
    • Slowly breath out until your lungs are nearly empty, but not to the point of strain.
  • For practice directing a focused stream of air:
    • Place a small piece of paper against a smooth wall at mouth-height.
    • Stand about 6 inches from the paper.
    • Release the paper as you breathe out, pinning the paper to the wall for a count of 5.
    • Rest and repeat the exercise 3 times.
    • Increase the time and distance gradually until you are able to pin the paper for a count of 10 at a distance of 12 inches.
  • For practice directing a steady, well-supported stream of air:
    • Cut a strip from a sheet of binder paper about 3 inches wide.
    • Hold the paper at one end, about 8 inches in front of your face, with the bottom end at the height of your mouth.
    • Gently blow on the paper, seeing how long and how steadily you can curl the bottom of the paper away from you.
    • Rest and repeat the exercise 3 times.
  • After having good success with the prior exercise:
    • Holding the paper, begin the outbreath gradually so the paper barely moves.
    • Steadily intensify the outbreath until the paper is at its farthest point and still under control.
    • Reduce the breath until the paper comes to rest again.
    • Pace the increase and decrease of breath so they take the full breath to complete.
    • Rest and repeat the exercise 3 times.

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©2014 Brad Johnson
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