More Air – The Brass Player’s Guide to Chilling Out
Post by: Patrick Nate
Everyone breathes, all day every day without even thinking about it. When you become a brass player, however, breathing becomes a vital part of making music. After learning how to make a sound on a trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, or horn, many musicians stop thinking about breathing. This very common mistake creates a lot of problems for intermediate and advanced brass players that can all be summed up with one solution: MORE AIR!!
Ravi Best, trumpet player, has two great short YouTube videos that discuss inhaling and exhaling when playing. The best part about these videos is that even though he is a trumpet player, these concepts are the same for all brass instruments! The biggest issue that young brass players have when breathing is clenching their shoulders to squeeze as much air into their lungs as possible. But think about this, if you were to squeeze a balloon with your hands as you were trying to blow it up, would it be easier or harder to fill that balloon up? The answer of course is harder! Your body works very similarly. The key to getting a quality breath is to relax all the muscles in your whole body. To do this, first try yawning and then copy that feeling (if it helps, focus on an area that still has tension and when exhaling, ‘breathe into that area’ to relax that area).
The goal is to create a habit of relaxed and efficient breathing when playing a brass instrument. Luckily, this is a quick and easy thing to do! The next time you go pick up your horn or tuba or any other brass instrument, take a few relaxed even long breaths before you play. Try at first to slowly count to four when you inhale and then immediately again when you exhale. Focus on making the transition from inhaling to exhaling as seamless as possible with no pause between the two. Once you’ve done this and know what it feels like, you can shorten the inhale and/or lengthen the exhale while still staying relaxed (in for 2 out for 4, in for 1 out for 4, in for 4 out for 8, etc). This helps mimic a breath you might take before playing your instrument. Relaxed breaths will result in more quality air that is put through your instrument. This will make it easier to play higher AND lower notes, give you a fuller sound throughout the range of the instrument, and make it more fun to play!
Inhale Video: https://youtu.be/TOorjluNnrg
Exhale Video: https://youtu.be/Jby01iDKhVI