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Breath Control

The following are checkpoints for the use of the breath:
  • The breath is taken in through the mouth.
  • When you have a long enough break in the music, and to allow the breath to be as quick and noiseless as possible, you can lower the jaw on the in-breath, leaving the upper teeth on the mouthpiece. Then return the jaw to its original position on the reed for the out-breath.
  • For quick breaths, it is best to take the breath in at the corners of the mouth, disrupting the embouchure as little as possible.
  • 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 fast stream of warm air.
  • The tongue and throat remain relaxed during the breath. This prevents interference with the in-breath and constriction during 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 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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