Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rhythmic Breathing Exercise

In my Preview, Review and Video Too post, I said that I'd write more about breathing in a later post, since it's mentioned in the video with John Peter. So, here it is! This is the same exercise I gave John but you don't see it on the video.

This breathing exercise was given to me by one of my principal teachers, former principal trombonist of the Minnesota Orchestra, Steven Zellmer.

Over the years, I have found a deepening value for this relatively simple exercise and have developed a number of variations myself, some of which I'm including here. It is excellent for locating tension that might exist in the stomach, chest and especially the shoulders.

Done on a regular basis, this exercise helps in the economy of breath. While doing the inhale for six counts, one needs to measure the breathing, making sure not to take it in too quickly or you can be full well before beat six!

Practicing the three count and the two count variations, one can feel the breath at faster speeds. These variations are excellent for monitoring any tension that could enter your body when air speed is increased.

Here is one way to use this exercise in a sequence:

1. Focus your eyes on something straight ahead of you.

2. Do the exercise three times consecutively with the six counts at a moderate speed.

3. Repeat using three count variation.

4. Repeat using the two count variation.

Oftentimes, players already have too much air in their lungs, so it can be useful to exhale for a count of two before starting the inhale.

There is so much that can be said about breathing. Find your own ways with this exercise and be careful not to overdo it so you don't hyperventilate.

By the way, this exercise is good for relaxation too!


joeyme1 said...

Thanks for posting this one, Norman. I've shown in to about 100 students already this summer; and now I can send some folks directly to the source where I learned it. BTW, I still use it, too. :)


Gabe Langfur said...

Hi Norman,

This is almost identical to a basic breathing exercise I learned years ago that came from Sam Pilafian. The focus of the eyes is an excellent addition.

I have been finding a lot of tension in my shoulders recently, and I'm having some trouble alleviating it. Do you have other suggestions specific to shoulder tension?


Norman said...

Hi Joey, Gabe and everyone,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I do read all the comments and they are in my thoughts and so they will be responded to, in one way or another, in the context of future posts, since my schedule really doesn't allow me to respond to everyone directly.

By the way, many times when I've shown people this basic breathing exercise, they bring up Sam Pilafian. As some of you might know, I was in the Empire Brass Qunitet many years ago with Sam. We were good friends and I loved playing with him. We often would talk about brass techniques and I showed him this rhythmic breathing exercise that my teacher showed me. And that was about 32 years ago. Whether or not Sam saw this exercise at any other time, I don't know. But I do know this exercise goes way back if my teacher gave it to me 40 years.

All the best to everyone,