Its All About

Air!

Learning and Teaching

About Breathing and

Air Efficiency

by Beth Mitchell Drawings by Ben Chouinard © 2019 used by permission How musicians use their air affects their ability to perform articulations, dynamics, phrasing, and almost every musical aspect of expressive playing, and tone produc - tion. Correct use of air and proper breathing are essential to good performance. How brass musicians are taught about air can set them up for success in music or lead to debilitating problems that can change the path of any per - formance. “Ironically, the one thing that every human learns to do well and usually efficiently is the topic that is most discussed in brass playing” (Porter, 2010, p. 52). Breathing is a requirement for life. For conductors and string players, it helps them understand phrasing and line. For wind instrumentalists and vocalists, efficient air usage is one of the most complex, essential, and fundamental elements to master in order to create beautiful sound and music. For brass players, it is that and so much more. How a brass player uses air affects almost every aspect of expressive and successful performance. There are three reasons it is important to understand breathing. First, for all brass players, correct use of air and proper breathing is a requisite to quality performance and musicianship. Second, as people grow older, they lose elasticity in their lungs, and their vital capacity is dimin - ished. With this in mind, every aging musician becomes interested in air-efficiency as it becomes a necessity. Finally, and most importantly, music educators and schol - ars have differing views about air, air usage, lung capacity, and support. Their teaching often conflicts with science and may not relate to body types of individual students. Why Have Special Teaching Methods for Brass Musi - cians for Air and Breath? As air is invisible, breath control is a difficult subject to understand, learn and teach. It doesn’t help that although there are external signs we are breathing deeply, the organs used are inter - nal. Numerous sources have examined the topic of breathing and air use by brass players. Many brass players are taught vocalist breathing tech - niques that can create problems for them. (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 97). Brass players and vocalists use air differently so although there is some successful crossover application there are also substantial differences. Many vocal breathing techniques create stress and muscle ten - sion in brass players and negatively influence their sound. Why is Proper Breathing So Important to Musicians? Mastering breathing patterns in wind instruments has sev - eral advantages. “More usable air provides more opportu - nities for musical expressiveness, better quality and timbre of sound, length of phrases and expression” (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 105). As the “zone of pos - itive air pressure” is increased, it allows for relaxing respiratory muscles and greater endurance and a more resonant sound. “More stable air flow relieves work of the embouchure, increasing endurance and working limits in ultimate registers. Proper breath support helps control nerves, endurance, pitch control, sound production, lip pain/tensions” (Watson, 2013, p. 84). “Air helps range, sound, all musical aspects of playing and the technical aspects as well” (Vinson, 2014, p. 2). In his study of great brass pedagogy, Haramule quotes Daniel Perantoni: “Breath is the most important physical aspect of tone pro - duction because it is the source of energy that causes the lips to vibrate” (Haramule, 2011, p. 23). “Consistent airflow is consistent sound” (Fischer 2006, p. 87) “Breath directly affects intonation, articulation, dictation, vibrato, dynamic level, and intensity of the tone as well as phrasing, accents, and other aspects of musical expression” (Schu - mann, 2000, p. 138). What Physically Happens When We Breathe? Arnold Jacobs often referred to a sleeping baby as the best exam - ple of breathing. “Breath expansion should occur simulta - neously all over. Air goes into all sections of the lungs at the same time” (Nelson, p. 41, 2006). Simplified Breathing Mechanics The abdomen expands out, breathing in, deflates inward breathing out. The collarbone area expands up breathing in, deflates down breathing out. The ribs expand out breathing in, deflate down breath - ing out. The ribs in the BACK expand backwards breathing in, deflate forwards breathing out (Porter, 2002, p. 59), (Conable, 2000, p. 20–29). Three Common Methods of Breathing Taught to Brass Players The Jacobs Method, Song and Wind Probably the most widely accepted breathing methods taught today are those researched and taught by Arnold Jacobs from 1950–98. “Before Arnold Jacobs, most of the principals in relation to wind instruments were non-existent” (Frederik - sen Jacobs, 1996, p. 97–98). Chicago Symphony Tubist Arnold Jacobs spent his lifetime studying human anatomy, physiology, and respiration in relation to wind instru - ments. He audited countless medical classes at the Chicago School of Medicine and put in thousands of hours of medical research on brass players, often using his col - leagues at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as guinea pigs. The song and wind breathing method involves sound concept as much as correct full-breathing and good pos - ture. By studying sound, you are studying breath. Go for what it sounds like, not what it feels like. Always maintain good posture. Order air as external wind, not internal pressure. Keep breaths full and relaxed. Focus on the psychology—not mechanics—of breath - ing. Breathe to expand; don’t expand to breathe. Establish good breathing habits through exercises away from the horn. The Hitch Method This second method has many names and is a commonly taught breathing process that consists of three stages: Inhalation, Containment, Exhala - tion. INHALATION Inhalation– Open Throat Contracting diaphragm assists in intake of air Intake of air expands chest CONTAINMENT (holding air in/back before playing) Glottis used to contain air in lungs Diaphragm is contracted/pushed down by air retained Chest and upper torso remain fully expanded EXHALATION Glottis is opened to control the release of air without any muscle constriction in the area of throat Pressure on diaphragm relieved by expulsion of air Chest and upper torso contract, pulling in, forcing out and increasing air pressure and velocity. Chest and upper torso reduce to normal, relaxed position. Factors to consider: The shoulders should stay down and relaxed. The control speed, amount of air inhaled, con - tained and released is determined by musical factors (dynamics/tone quality/phrasing, etc.). A relaxed posture and open throat are necessary. The gradual return to relaxed posture is necessary to return to correct expulsion of air (Phillips, 1992, p. 22–25). This method is often taught to trumpet players. The idea of “containment” (holding air in/back before playing) is in direct contrast with the Jacobs method, and can lead to unwanted tension in the throat restricting breathing. Diaphragmic or Diaphragmatic Breathing Method This method is originally borrowed from singing methods for brass players. “Although the increase in size of rib cage during the inspiration requires muscular effort, the decrease during expiration is merely an elastic recoil pro - duced by lungs and costal cartilages. Intensified exhala - tion—required by singing, speaking, or wind instrument playing—is controlled by the abdominal, spinal, and inter - costal, muscles. The air pressure in the lungs becomes lower than in the atmosphere. Contractions of abdominal and spinal muscles push the diaphragm upwards while intercostal muscles lower and make the chest narrower, thereby pushing out the air from the lungs. Versions of diaphragmatic breathing involve visualizing the diaphragm, and the ever controversial tight-gut method for brass” (Bardins and Maranauza, 2014, p 104). In their study comparing breathing methods, Bardins and Maranauza noted that breathing only with chest or diaphragmatic breathing—idea borrowed from vocal ped - agogy—is unhelpful because it is too shallow. Diaphrag - matic breathing suggestions are OK, but full breathing suggestions are best as a “full breath cannot be taken without expanding the lungs in the upper chest. Reducing the volume of expiry is too fast or tiresome” (Bardins and Maranauza, 2014, p 104–105). Modified Diaphragmatic Breathing This modified ver - sion incorporates the Jacobs ideas. Breathe not from the top up or the bottom down but simultaneously throughout. Inhale large quantities of air with good posture allowing the body to function normally. Maintain good posture, concentrate on moving large amounts of air. Lung capacity cannot be increased, but we can make better use of what we have. Focus on relaxed breathing using the least amount of physical effort required to use large amounts of air. Think of breathing as part of the music (Nelson, 2006, p. 35). Enemy of Air: Tension Tension is the enemy of breath - ing. In the throat, tension will choke the ‘fuel line’ by causing restriction in the throat. The best way to teach a student to eliminate throat tension is to initiate the feeling of a yawn (Haramule, 2011 p. 29). “Do not confuse aggres - sive breathing with tension. Move air in large quantities but stay relaxed” (Porter, 2007, 70). Pressure tension is the result of air that is not allowed to properly flow through the instrument. “Do not teach tubists the same airflow and support concepts as the higher brass…” Tuba per - formers require an airflow that is slower, thicker, and warmer that focuses on reducing—not increasing—air pressure on the body. Many times, teachers will focus too much on taking in massive amounts of air, and not enough on properly letting it go. “…A large volume of built- up air with pressure inside the body is just as detrimental as not taking enough air in” (Porter, 2003, p 69). Haramule compares the similar teaching strategies of great teachers on breathing and tension and notes how they can affect students. “Many instructors focus on keep - ing shoulders down, but too much focus on this can create tension. Allow the body to move freely as you breathe and play. Abdominal tension can result as young players try to provide more air support. Players should think more of drawing in large quantities of air allowing for the natural full feeling of the lungs. Players should not ‘lock in air’ or hold air after inhalation. Play instead off the rebound of the breath” or breathing in time (Haramule, 2011, p. 29). Conclusions on breathing studies were that “many popular breathing methods taught are not based on medical knowledge of how the body actually works, or human physiology, but rather unfounded mythical ideas about breathing that have been passed down for generations among teachers and musicians. These methods create tension, stress, and limited airflow” (Bardins and Mar - nauza, 2014, p. 109). Playing with Support Musicians are often told to play with breath support. But, what does that mean? “Support from abdomen muscles, pulling the abdomen down, engaging the muscles from the back help, your back rarely feels nervous and is a source of strength and consistency” (Watson, 2013, p. 84). The idea of support is often linked with the idea of “using your diaphragm,” but since you can’t feel or see your diaphragm working it is a difficult and confusing concept for students to grasp (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p 109). In his study of air entitled The Breath of Music, Christopher Barrier states: “Too often musicians forget the importance of proper breath support and do not teach it to their students or incorporate it into their playing.” He then goes on to link the concept of breath support with proper full breathing, and good posture. “Support comes during exhalation and the airflow must be under control at all times. The player should maintain strict control over exactly what his (sic)airflow is doing, and over exactly what else is going on in his (sic) body to help hinder the airflow. The student must know where the inhalation ends and the exhalation begins (Bar - rier, 2009, p. 10). Barrier goes on to say that often brass players will let their air-stream lag and “starve” the instru - ment of air. He encourages musicians to use steady air during technical passages, or trills, or difficult intervals. When Should Musicians Breathe? “Students that do not take full breaths, operate in the negative zone which creates tension, stress, fatigue, and poor sound. Physical endurance is also affected as the body is not supplied with enough oxygen” (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 103). “When you take a relaxed deep breath, fill up to about 80% full. Beyond that creates tension. Your top 50% of air is your best air. It is the air that will control dynamics, into - nation, and tone quality. It is natural air. This is the air you will use for playing the tuba” (Haramule, 2011, p. 23). “Breathing can be optimized, breathing freely and effort - lessly, allowing air to flow into the lungs and maintaining good posture (Nelson, 2006, p. 109). “When the volume of air in the lungs drops below fifty percent of capacity, the brain engages certain muscles to further help push the air out. If the player is not careful, tone quality can suffer while pushing the air out” (Haramule, 2011 p. 23). Strive for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Posture The two easiest components of breathing are; taking a full breath and having good posture. Excellent posture is widely agreed upon as the most important ele - ment for effective breathing (Phillips 1992, pg. 24). Sit as tall as possible as a long torso allows the lungs to expand in more space. Slumping creates a breathing nightmare. Although students are less likely to slouch while standing, it is not practical for all instruments. Most musicians per - form while seated. “Standing while seated (in the upper body) is the best posture because players will have the greatest ability to move air in and out of the lungs (Barrier, 2009, p. 16). “Poor posture results in regional breathing. Stay tall while seated” (Nelson, 2006, p. 35). Factors That Inhibit or Contribute to Vital Capacity There are three soundly researched uncontrollable factors that determine one’s vital capacity: gender, age, and height. These average capacity figures are taken from research performed by the American Thoracic Society. They show that in general, men have a substantial physical advantage over women in vital capacity. The studies also show that as humans age, their vital capacity decreases. Arnold Jacobs used similar statistics from the American Thoracic Society for his research, and stated that, ”women have a lung capacity below that of men of the same size. The average woman’s vital capacity is between three and four liters.” By using the ATI formula (which is still used today) (Pellegrino, 2005, p. 950) for vital capacity for both males and females, a man and woman, both 5’6” tall would have a difference in estimated vital capacities from 14.5% at age twenty to 25% at age 80. Jacobs’ conclusion was that “A large man can afford to limit his breathing. A small female cannot” (Frederikson - Jacobs, 1996, p. 113). As a small female myself, I have personally found that relaxed efficient air usage can allow a smaller per - son to be competitive in professional brass playing. Body type plays a role as well and can lead to sur - prises. One example of a definite exception to the chart above—used often by Arnold Jacobs—was Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpet player Will Scar - let. Although 5’10” he had a vital capacity of 6 ½ liters. Jacobs attributed this to his long torso and short legs (Frederiksen, 1996, p. 112). Somatotyping, or “body typing” also factors into vital capacity. This not only includes sex, age, height, and weight, but also ethnic differences, technical, and unexplained differences such as smoking (active or passive), occupational exposures, pollution, socioeco - nomic status, genetic factors, allergies, and respiratory health status (Pellegrino, 2005, 951–956: Cowgill, 2009, p. 145: Haramule, 2011 p. 23: Bardins & Marnauza, 2014, p. 103). In Cowgill’s comparative analysis of body types and breathing tendencies, she noted that breathing tech - niques might be influenced by body type. “Overweight individuals tend to breath lower in the abdominal region than those with less body fat, lean individuals seem to breath higher in the thoracic region, and singers with ath - letic builds appear to breath in the rib cage.” (Cowgill, 2009, p. 145) In another study with Chicago musicians and the American Thoracic Society, it was noted by Jacobs that “Obesity pushes the diaphragm into a high position and doesn’t allow for easy descent. Fat gets into spaces where it shouldn’t be” (Nelson, 2006, p. 45). It was also found that although vital capacity diminishes with age, lung elasticity can be improved and the decrease of vital capacity delayed with physical and breathing exercises (Barnes, 2016, p. 2). Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Efficient and Effective Breathing for Brass Players “Total lung capacity cannot be increased beyond what nature grants to a particular body. Only the elasticity of the lung tissue or chest wall can be increased” (Nel - son, 2006, p. 43). “Breath is an essential component of musical interpreta - tion. Viewed as an interpretive device rather than just a physical necessity, breath placement becomes an integral interpretive feature of the music. Properly placed, breaths can help create a musical phrase that is so captivating that the audience can breathe with the music” (Haramule, p. 31, 2011). Where to breathe? Hide breaths in the music, orchestration, and phrasing During Rests After long notes Leave out a note in technical works to “sneak a breath” Optimizing Air Have great posture, sit or stand straight with good pos - ture Exhale all possible air Inhale deeply, freely, and effortlessly allowing air to flow into the lungs (Barrier, 2009, p. 3) Breathing exercises Play softer to hold phrases longer (Frederiksen, 1996, p. 116) Focus on musicality and don’t be frustrated by what is physically impossible (Frederiksen, 1996, p. 117) Circular breathing Circular breathing is “A continuous or circular supply of air, achieved by using the cheeks as a bellows (allowing them to fill with air from the lungs) and while facial (cheek) mus - cles are contracted to force controlled air through lips to sustain sound, a fresh supply of air is taken in through the nose into the lungs to resupply the cheek bellows” (Phillips, 1992, p. 25). Successful circular breathing allows musicians several minutes of uninterrupted playing. It is challenging to maintain consistent tone while circular breathing on larger instruments. It is almost impossible to circular breathe for pedal notes on a tuba as the rate of inflow (air going in) should exceed the rate of outflow (air going out) to maintain appropriate air support (Haramule, 2011 p. 38). Breathing Tools Tools that measure breathing are useful because air is invisible. Using breathing tools, students can see how they use their air. According to Barrier, “Too often musicians forget the importance of proper breath support and do not teach it to their students or incorporate it into their playing. Tools that help measure breathing—as well as breathing exercises—can be incorporated into a class - room setting.” Here are examples of several tools that are used by brass players to measure and/or improve breath - ing and air flow. McAdams Breathing Apparatus (short piece of pipe) Breath Builder:allows for students to breathe deeply using different sorts of resistance Voldyne 5000: measures inspiration Triflow: similar to Voldyne 5000 but has three chambers and can measure inhalation and inhalation speed. It can also measure exhalation by turning the device upside down Peak flow meters: often used by asthma patients, show the amount of air in the lungs (Barrier, 2009 pp. 23-27). Breathing Exercises Breathing exercises help develop natural and effective habits for excellent brass playing, increasing efficiency, coordination, and flexibil - ity in breathing—but not actual physical strength (Little, 2010, p. 1). There are many types of exercises that help students under - stand the different aspects of breathing. Entire books have been written about them. Here are four simple exercises and what they do: Blow a pencil across a flat surface and analyze the con - sistency of speed in the roll of the pencil. This can reveal a stream of air that is inconsistent in speed and volume (Haramule, 2011, p. 27). Buzzing on mouthpiece alone: Vibration of lips is pro - duced by air. Both the teacher and the student will hear inconsistencies or imperfections in the buzz if the air speed stops slightly or is weak. Additionally, the tone quality of the buzz reveals the quality of air being used (Vinson, 2014, p. 1). Blow up a balloon: teaches exhalation and can show vital capacity (Barrier, 2009, p. 31) Long tones: practicing breathing, dynamics, air flow, sound (Haramule, 2011, p. 27) Conclusion Breath control is the most fundamental concept for suc - cess on wind instruments. How musicians breathe and use their air can be the difference between success and failure. Although there are many factors that cannot be controlled, there are several that can and will lead to increased air efficiency. By incorporating simple things like good posture and correct breathing techniques, musicians can master the important physical requirements of air needed for playing a wind instrument. Despite sex, age, and size, musicians can succeed in tone quality, expres - sion, phrasing, and the various elements of making great music if they are able to utilize air efficiently on their instrument. In a nutshell, sit up straight, take a deep relaxed breath, let it out, take one more, and play. Bibliography 1. Barrier, Christopher Cody. 2009. The Breath of Music. St Louis, MO: UMI Company. 2. Bardins, Sandis, and Marnauza, Mara. “Optimization of the Brass Playing Breathing Process in Accordance with the Physiological Processes of Natural Breathing” Prob - lems in Music Pedagogy, Vol. 13, 2 (2014) pp. 97-110. 3. Cowgill, Jennifer Griffith. “Breathing for Singers: A Com - parative Analysis of Body Types and Breathing Tenden - cies.” Journal of Singing, Vol. 66, No. 2, (2009) pp. 141-147. 4. Frederikson , Brian, Jacobs, Arnold, and Taylor, John, ed. 1996. Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind. Chicago, IL: Wind - song Press. 5. Haramule, Jacob Frederik. 2011. Tuba Pedagogical Arti - cle Compendium Arranged According to the Dewitt Brass Model. Miami, FL: UMI Company. 6. Nelson, Bruce, ed. 2006. Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs, A Developmental Guide for Brass Wind Musicians. Mindel - heim, Germany: Polymnia Press. 7. Pellegrino, R.: Brusasco, V., Crapo, R., and Viegi, G. eds. 2005. “Interpretative strategies for lung function tests.” European Respiratory Journal 26 (5): 948-968. 8. Porter, David, “Holding the ‘Oh’. ITEA Journal 30 (Sum - mer 2003): 69. 9. Porter, David, “Mechanics are Not just for Cars.” ITEA Journal 29 (Summer 2002): 59. 10. Porter, David, “Muffy and Woofled.” ITEA Journal 37 (Spring 2010): 52-53. 11. Porter David, “Resistance Isn’t Acceptance.” ITEA Jour - nal 30 (Fall 2002): 75. 12. Schumann, Karn Harfst. “The Effects of Breath Man - agement Instruction on the Performance of Elementary Brass Players.” Journal of Research in Music Education, Summer, Vol. 48, 2 (2000): 136-150. 13. Vinson, Ed. “The Young Tuba Player’s Use of Air.” ITEA Journal, Spring, Vol. 41,3, (2014): 1-4. 14. Watson, Joan. ”A Personal History of Learning and Teaching Breath Support.” The Horn Call, May (2013): 84- 76.

Beth Mitchell

Before settling in Los Angeles, Beth Chouinard-Mitchell was principal tubist with the Women’s Philhar - monic Orchestra in San Francisco, and the Orchesta Sinfonica de Mon - terrey in Nueva Leon, Mexico. She has played with the Baltimore Sym - phony Orchestra, the Pacific Sym - phony Orchestra, Opera Pacific, Germany’s Eurobrass, has appeared as a guest soloist with the United States Army Band, and has toured frequently throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Ms. Mitchell enjoys an active free - lance career in Los Angeles. She subs with the local Los Angeles Orchestras, plays in the film studios, is a member of the Disneyland Band, has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Orange County Philharmonic Society, the Los Ange - les Zipper Orchestra, and many other arts groups giving concerts, masterclasses and numerous solo and chamber recitals in southern California. Beth is an acclaimed international solo recital artist. She regularly gives solo performances, plays chamber recitals, lectures, and teaches mas - terclasses around the world. Beth has degrees in Tuba Perfor - mance from the Peabody Conserva - tory of Music of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and The Uni - versity of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a Doctorate at U.S.C. in Tuba, Musi - cology, Conducting, and Arts Leader - ship. Her principal teachers have been David Fedderly, Tommy John - son, Jim Self, and Roger Bobo. She is on the faculties of Pasadena City College, and Biola University. Additionally, Ms. Mitchell is an Inter - national Performing Tuba Artist and Clinician for Eastman Winds and is a Wessex Cimbasso Artist.
More usable air provides more opportunities for musical expressiveness…
Many instructors focus on keeping the shoulders down, but too much focus on this can create tension.
…since you can’t feel or see your diaphragm working it is a difficult and confusing concept…
Your top 50% is your best air.
Standing while seated is the best posture…
ARBAN ZONE
Beth Mitchell
Beth’s Website

Its All About Air!

Learning and Teaching

About Breathing and

Air Efficiency

by Beth Mitchell Drawings by Ben Chouinard © 2019 used by permission How musicians use their air affects their ability to perform articulations, dynamics, phrasing, and almost every musical aspect of expressive playing, and tone production. Correct use of air and proper breathing are essential to good perfor - mance. How brass musicians are taught about air can set them up for success in music or lead to debilitating problems that can change the path of any performance. “Ironically, the one thing that every human learns to do well and usually efficiently is the topic that is most discussed in brass playing” (Porter, 2010, p. 52). Breathing is a requirement for life. For conduc - tors and string players, it helps them understand phrasing and line. For wind instrumentalists and vocalists, efficient air usage is one of the most complex, essential, and fundamental elements to master in order to create beautiful sound and music. For brass players, it is that and so much more. How a brass player uses air affects almost every aspect of expressive and successful perfor - mance. There are three reasons it is important to under - stand breathing. First, for all brass players, correct use of air and proper breathing is a requisite to quality performance and musicianship. Second, as people grow older, they lose elasticity in their lungs, and their vital capacity is diminished. With this in mind, every aging musician becomes inter - ested in air-efficiency as it becomes a necessity. Finally, and most importantly, music educators and scholars have differing views about air, air usage, lung capacity, and support. Their teaching often conflicts with science and may not relate to body types of individual students. Why Have Special Teaching Methods for Brass Musicians for Air and Breath? As air is invisible, breath control is a difficult subject to understand, learn and teach. It doesn’t help that although there are external signs we are breathing deeply, the organs used are internal. Numerous sources have examined the topic of breathing and air use by brass players. Many brass players are taught vocalist breathing techniques that can create problems for them. (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 97). Brass play - ers and vocalists use air differently so although there is some successful crossover application there are also substantial differences. Many vocal breathing techniques create stress and muscle tension in brass players and negatively influence their sound. Why is Proper Breathing So Important to Musi - cians? Mastering breathing patterns in wind instruments has several advantages. “More usable air provides more opportunities for musi - cal expressiveness, better quality and timbre of sound, length of phrases and expression” (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 105). As the “zone of positive air pressure” is increased, it allows for relaxing respiratory muscles and greater endurance and a more resonant sound. “More stable air flow relieves work of the embouchure, increasing endurance and working limits in ultimate registers. Proper breath support helps control nerves, endurance, pitch control, sound production, lip pain/tensions” (Watson, 2013, p. 84). “Air helps range, sound, all musical aspects of playing and the technical aspects as well” (Vinson, 2014, p. 2). In his study of great brass pedagogy, Haramule quotes Daniel Peran - toni: “Breath is the most important physical aspect of tone production because it is the source of energy that causes the lips to vibrate” (Hara - mule, 2011, p. 23). “Consistent airflow is consis - tent sound” (Fischer 2006, p. 87) “Breath directly affects intonation, articulation, dictation, vibrato, dynamic level, and intensity of the tone as well as phrasing, accents, and other aspects of musical expression” (Schumann, 2000, p. 138). What Physically Happens When We Breathe? Arnold Jacobs often referred to a sleeping baby as the best example of breathing. “Breath expansion should occur simultaneously all over. Air goes into all sections of the lungs at the same time” (Nelson, p. 41, 2006). Simplified Breathing Mechanics The abdomen expands out, breathing in, deflates inward breathing out. The collarbone area expands up breathing in, deflates down breathing out. The ribs expand out breathing in, deflate down breathing out. The ribs in the BACK expand backwards breathing in, deflate forwards breathing out (Porter, 2002, p. 59), (Conable, 2000, p. 20–29). Three Common Methods of Breathing Taught to Brass Players The Jacobs Method, Song and Wind Probably the most widely accepted breathing methods taught today are those researched and taught by Arnold Jacobs from 1950–98. “Before Arnold Jacobs, most of the principals in relation to wind instruments were non-existent” (Frederiksen Jacobs, 1996, p. 97–98). Chicago Symphony Tubist Arnold Jacobs spent his lifetime studying human anatomy, physiology, and respiration in relation to wind instruments. He audited countless medi - cal classes at the Chicago School of Medicine and put in thousands of hours of medical research on brass players, often using his colleagues at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as guinea pigs. The song and wind breathing method involves sound concept as much as correct full-breathing and good posture. By studying sound, you are studying breath. Go for what it sounds like, not what it feels like. Always maintain good posture. Order air as external wind, not internal pres - sure. Keep breaths full and relaxed. Focus on the psychology—not mechanics—of breathing. Breathe to expand; don’t expand to breathe. Establish good breathing habits through exer - cises away from the horn. The Hitch Method This second method has many names and is a commonly taught breathing process that consists of three stages: Inhalation, Containment, Exhalation. INHALATION Inhalation– Open Throat Contracting diaphragm assists in intake of air Intake of air expands chest CONTAINMENT (holding air in/back before play - ing) Glottis used to contain air in lungs Diaphragm is contracted/pushed down by air retained Chest and upper torso remain fully expanded EXHALATION Glottis is opened to control the release of air without any muscle constriction in the area of throat Pressure on diaphragm relieved by expulsion of air Chest and upper torso contract, pulling in, forcing out and increasing air pressure and velocity. Chest and upper torso reduce to nor - mal, relaxed position. Factors to consider: The shoulders should stay down and relaxed. The control speed, amount of air inhaled, contained and released is determined by musical factors (dynamics/tone quality/phrasing, etc.). A relaxed posture and open throat are necessary. The gradual return to relaxed posture is necessary to return to correct expulsion of air (Phillips, 1992, p. 22–25). This method is often taught to trumpet players. The idea of “containment” (holding air in/back before playing) is in direct contrast with the Jacobs method, and can lead to unwanted tension in the throat restricting breathing. Diaphragmic or Diaphragmatic Breathing Method This method is originally borrowed from singing methods for brass players. “Although the increase in size of rib cage during the inspiration requires muscular effort, the decrease during expiration is merely an elastic recoil produced by lungs and costal cartilages. Intensified exhalation—required by singing, speaking, or wind instrument playing—is con - trolled by the abdominal, spinal, and intercostal, muscles. The air pressure in the lungs becomes lower than in the atmosphere. Contractions of abdominal and spinal muscles push the diaphragm upwards while intercostal muscles lower and make the chest narrower, thereby pushing out the air from the lungs. Versions of diaphragmatic breathing involve visualizing the diaphragm, and the ever controversial tight-gut method for brass” (Bardins and Maranauza, 2014, p 104). In their study comparing breathing meth - ods, Bardins and Maranauza noted that breathing only with chest or diaphragmatic breathing—idea borrowed from vocal pedagogy—is unhelpful because it is too shallow. Diaphragmatic breath - ing suggestions are OK, but full breathing sugges - tions are best as a “full breath cannot be taken without expanding the lungs in the upper chest. Reducing the volume of expiry is too fast or tire - some” (Bardins and Maranauza, 2014, p 104–105). Modified Diaphragmatic Breathing This modi - fied version incorporates the Jacobs ideas. Breathe not from the top up or the bottom down but simultaneously throughout. Inhale large quantities of air with good posture allow - ing the body to function normally. Maintain good posture, concentrate on moving large amounts of air. Lung capacity cannot be increased, but we can make better use of what we have. Focus on relaxed breathing using the least amount of physical effort required to use large amounts of air. Think of breathing as part of the music (Nelson, 2006, p. 35). Enemy of Air: Tension Tension is the enemy of breathing. In the throat, tension will choke the ‘fuel line’ by causing restriction in the throat. The best way to teach a student to eliminate throat tension is to initiate the feeling of a yawn (Hara - mule, 2011 p. 29). “Do not confuse aggressive breathing with tension. Move air in large quanti - ties but stay relaxed” (Porter, 2007, 70). Pressure tension is the result of air that is not allowed to properly flow through the instrument. “Do not teach tubists the same airflow and support con - cepts as the higher brass…” Tuba performers require an airflow that is slower, thicker, and warmer that focuses on reducing—not increas - ing—air pressure on the body. Many times, teachers will focus too much on taking in massive amounts of air, and not enough on properly let - ting it go. “…A large volume of built-up air with pressure inside the body is just as detrimental as not taking enough air in” (Porter, 2003, p 69). Haramule compares the similar teaching strate - gies of great teachers on breathing and tension and notes how they can affect students. “Many instructors focus on keeping shoulders down, but too much focus on this can create tension. Allow the body to move freely as you breathe and play. Abdominal tension can result as young players try to provide more air support. Players should think more of drawing in large quantities of air allowing for the natural full feeling of the lungs. Players should not ‘lock in air’ or hold air after inhalation. Play instead off the rebound of the breath” or breathing in time (Haramule, 2011, p. 29). Conclu - sions on breathing studies were that “many popular breathing methods taught are not based on medical knowledge of how the body actually works, or human physiology, but rather unfounded mythical ideas about breathing that have been passed down for generations among teachers and musicians. These methods create tension, stress, and limited airflow” (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 109). Playing with Support Musicians are often told to play with breath support. But, what does that mean? “Support from abdomen muscles, pulling the abdomen down, engaging the muscles from the back help, your back rarely feels nervous and is a source of strength and consistency” (Watson, 2013, p. 84). The idea of support is often linked with the idea of “using your diaphragm,” but since you can’t feel or see your diaphragm working it is a difficult and confusing concept for students to grasp (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p 109). In his study of air entitled The Breath of Music, Christo - pher Barrier states: “Too often musicians forget the importance of proper breath support and do not teach it to their students or incorporate it into their playing.” He then goes on to link the concept of breath support with proper full breathing, and good posture. “Support comes during exhalation and the airflow must be under control at all times. The player should maintain strict control over exactly what his (sic)airflow is doing, and over exactly what else is going on in his (sic) body to help hinder the airflow. The student must know where the inhalation ends and the exhalation begins (Barrier, 2009, p. 10). Barrier goes on to say that often brass players will let their air- stream lag and “starve” the instrument of air. He encourages musicians to use steady air during technical passages, or trills, or difficult intervals. When Should Musicians Breathe? “Students that do not take full breaths, operate in the nega - tive zone which creates tension, stress, fatigue, and poor sound. Physical endurance is also affected as the body is not supplied with enough oxygen” (Bardins and Marnauza, 2014, p. 103). “When you take a relaxed deep breath, fill up to about 80% full. Beyond that creates tension. Your top 50% of air is your best air. It is the air that will control dynamics, intonation, and tone quality. It is natural air. This is the air you will use for play - ing the tuba” (Haramule, 2011, p. 23). “Breathing can be optimized, breathing freely and effort - lessly, allowing air to flow into the lungs and maintaining good posture (Nelson, 2006, p. 109). “When the volume of air in the lungs drops below fifty percent of capacity, the brain engages certain muscles to further help push the air out. If the player is not careful, tone quality can suffer while pushing the air out” (Haramule, 2011 p. 23). Strive for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Posture The two easiest components of breath - ing are; taking a full breath and having good posture. Excellent posture is widely agreed upon as the most important element for effective breathing (Phillips 1992, pg. 24). Sit as tall as pos - sible as a long torso allows the lungs to expand in more space. Slumping creates a breathing night - mare. Although students are less likely to slouch while standing, it is not practical for all instru - ments. Most musicians perform while seated. “Standing while seated (in the upper body) is the best posture because players will have the great - est ability to move air in and out of the lungs (Barrier, 2009, p. 16). “Poor posture results in regional breathing. Stay tall while seated” (Nelson, 2006, p. 35). Factors That Inhibit or Contribute to Vital Capacity There are three soundly researched uncontrollable factors that determine one’s vital capacity: gender, age, and height. These average capacity figures are taken from research per - formed by the American Thoracic Society. They show that in general, men have a substantial physical advantage over women in vital capacity. The studies also show that as humans age, their vital capacity decreases. Arnold Jacobs used simi - lar statistics from the American Thoracic Society for his research, and stated that, ”women have a lung capacity below that of men of the same size. The average woman’s vital capacity is between three and four liters.” By using the ATI formula (which is still used today) (Pellegrino, 2005, p. 950) for vital capacity for both males and females, a man and woman, both 5’6” tall would have a dif - ference in estimated vital capacities from 14.5% at age twenty to 25% at age 80. Jacobs’ conclusion was that “A large man can afford to limit his breathing. A small female cannot” (Frederikson - Jacobs, 1996, p. 113). As a small female myself, I have personally found that relaxed efficient air usage can allow a smaller person to be competi - tive in professional brass playing. Body type plays a role as well and can lead to surprises. One example of a definite exception to the chart above—used often by Arnold Jacobs—was Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpet player Will Scarlet. Although 5’10” he had a vital capacity of 6 ½ liters. Jacobs attributed this to his long torso and short legs (Frederiksen, 1996, p. 112). Somatotyping, or “body typing” also factors into vital capacity. This not only includes sex, age, height, and weight, but also ethnic differences, technical, and unexplained differences such as smoking (active or passive), occupational expo - sures, pollution, socioeconomic status, genetic factors, allergies, and respiratory health status (Pellegrino, 2005, 951–956: Cowgill, 2009, p. 145: Haramule, 2011 p. 23: Bardins & Marnauza, 2014, p. 103). In Cowgill’s comparative analysis of body types and breathing tendencies, she noted that breathing techniques might be influenced by body type. “Overweight individuals tend to breath lower in the abdominal region than those with less body fat, lean individuals seem to breath higher in the thoracic region, and singers with athletic builds appear to breath in the rib cage.” (Cowgill, 2009, p. 145) In another study with Chicago musicians and the American Thoracic Society, it was noted by Jacobs that “Obesity pushes the diaphragm into a high position and doesn’t allow for easy descent. Fat gets into spa - ces where it shouldn’t be” (Nelson, 2006, p. 45). It was also found that although vital capacity dimin - ishes with age, lung elasticity can be improved and the decrease of vital capacity delayed with physical and breathing exercises (Barnes, 2016, p. 2). Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Efficient and Effective Breathing for Brass Players “Total lung capacity cannot be increased beyond what nature grants to a particular body. Only the elasticity of the lung tissue or chest wall can be increased” (Nelson, 2006, p. 43). “Breath is an essential component of musical interpretation. Viewed as an interpretive device rather than just a physical necessity, breath place - ment becomes an integral interpretive feature of the music. Properly placed, breaths can help cre - ate a musical phrase that is so captivating that the audience can breathe with the music” (Hara - mule, p. 31, 2011). Where to breathe? Hide breaths in the music, orchestration, and phrasing During Rests After long notes Leave out a note in technical works to “sneak a breath” Optimizing Air Have great posture, sit or stand straight with good posture Exhale all possible air Inhale deeply, freely, and effortlessly allowing air to flow into the lungs (Barrier, 2009, p. 3) Breathing exercises Play softer to hold phrases longer (Frederik - sen, 1996, p. 116) Focus on musicality and don’t be frustrated by what is physically impossible (Frederiksen, 1996, p. 117) Circular breathing Circular breathing is “A continuous or circular sup - ply of air, achieved by using the cheeks as a bellows (allowing them to fill with air from the lungs) and while facial (cheek) muscles are con - tracted to force controlled air through lips to sustain sound, a fresh supply of air is taken in through the nose into the lungs to resupply the cheek bellows” (Phillips, 1992, p. 25). Successful circular breathing allows musicians several min - utes of uninterrupted playing. It is challenging to maintain consistent tone while circular breathing on larger instruments. It is almost impossible to circular breathe for pedal notes on a tuba as the rate of inflow (air going in) should exceed the rate of outflow (air going out) to maintain appropriate air support (Haramule, 2011 p. 38). Breathing Tools Tools that measure breathing are useful because air is invisible. Using breathing tools, students can see how they use their air. According to Barrier, “Too often musicians forget the importance of proper breath support and do not teach it to their students or incorporate it into their playing. Tools that help measure breathing—as well as breath - ing exercises—can be incorporated into a class - room setting.” Here are examples of several tools that are used by brass players to measure and/or improve breathing and air flow. McAdams Breathing Apparatus (short piece of pipe) Breath Builder:allows for students to breathe deeply using different sorts of resistance Voldyne 5000: measures inspiration Triflow: similar to Voldyne 5000 but has three chambers and can measure inhalation and inhalation speed. It can also measure exhala - tion by turning the device upside down Peak flow meters: often used by asthma patients, show the amount of air in the lungs (Barrier, 2009 pp. 23-27). Breathing Exercises Breathing exercises help develop natural and effective habits for excellent brass playing, increasing efficiency, coordination, and flexibility in breathing—but not actual physical strength (Little, 2010, p. 1). There are many types of exer - cises that help students understand the different aspects of breathing. Entire books have been written about them. Here are four simple exer - cises and what they do: Blow a pencil across a flat surface and analyze the consistency of speed in the roll of the pen - cil. This can reveal a stream of air that is inconsistent in speed and volume (Haramule, 2011, p. 27). Buzzing on mouthpiece alone: Vibration of lips is produced by air. Both the teacher and the student will hear inconsistencies or imperfec - tions in the buzz if the air speed stops slightly or is weak. Additionally, the tone quality of the buzz reveals the quality of air being used (Vin - son, 2014, p. 1). Blow up a balloon: teaches exhalation and can show vital capacity (Barrier, 2009, p. 31) Long tones: practicing breathing, dynamics, air flow, sound (Haramule, 2011, p. 27) Conclusion Breath control is the most fundamental concept for success on wind instruments. How musicians breathe and use their air can be the difference between success and failure. Although there are many factors that cannot be controlled, there are several that can and will lead to increased air effi - ciency. By incorporating simple things like good posture and correct breathing techniques, musi - cians can master the important physical require - ments of air needed for playing a wind instrument. Despite sex, age, and size, musicians can succeed in tone quality, expression, phrasing, and the various elements of making great music if they are able to utilize air efficiently on their instrument. In a nutshell, sit up straight, take a deep relaxed breath, let it out, take one more, and play. Bibliography 1. Barrier, Christopher Cody. 2009. The Breath of Music. St Louis, MO: UMI Company. 2. Bardins, Sandis, and Marnauza, Mara. “Opti - mization of the Brass Playing Breathing Process in Accordance with the Physiological Processes of Natural Breathing” Problems in Music Pedagogy, Vol. 13, 2 (2014) pp. 97-110. 3. Cowgill, Jennifer Griffith. “Breathing for Singers: A Comparative Analysis of Body Types and Breathing Tendencies.” Journal of Singing, Vol. 66, No. 2, (2009) pp. 141-147. 4. Frederikson , Brian, Jacobs, Arnold, and Taylor, John, ed. 1996. Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind. Chicago, IL: Windsong Press. 5. Haramule, Jacob Frederik. 2011. Tuba Pedagog - ical Article Compendium Arranged According to the Dewitt Brass Model. Miami, FL: UMI Company. 6. Nelson, Bruce, ed. 2006. Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs, A Developmental Guide for Brass Wind Musicians. Mindelheim, Germany: Polymnia Press. 7. Pellegrino, R.: Brusasco, V., Crapo, R., and Viegi, G. eds. 2005. “Interpretative strategies for lung function tests.” European Respiratory Journal 26 (5): 948-968. 8. Porter, David, “Holding the ‘Oh’. ITEA Journal 30 (Summer 2003): 69. 9. Porter, David, “Mechanics are Not just for Cars.” ITEA Journal 29 (Summer 2002): 59. 10. Porter, David, “Muffy and Woofled.” ITEA Jour - nal 37 (Spring 2010): 52-53. 11. Porter David, “Resistance Isn’t Acceptance.” ITEA Journal 30 (Fall 2002): 75. 12. Schumann, Karn Harfst. “The Effects of Breath Management Instruction on the Performance of Elementary Brass Players.” Journal of Research in Music Education, Summer, Vol. 48, 2 (2000): 136- 150. 13. Vinson, Ed. “The Young Tuba Player’s Use of Air.” ITEA Journal, Spring, Vol. 41,3, (2014): 1-4. 14. Watson, Joan. ”A Personal History of Learning and Teaching Breath Support.” The Horn Call, May (2013): 84-76.
Beth Mitchell

Beth Mitchell

Before settling in Los Angeles, Beth Chouinard- Mitchell was principal tubist with the Women’s Philharmonic Orchestra in San Francisco, and the Orchesta Sinfonica de Monterrey in Nueva Leon, Mexico. She has played with the Baltimore Sym - phony Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Opera Pacific, Germany’s Eurobrass, has appeared as a guest soloist with the United States Army Band, and has toured frequently throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Ms. Mitchell enjoys an active freelance career in Los Angeles. She subs with the local Los Angeles Orchestras, plays in the film studios, is a member of the Disneyland Band, has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Orange County Phil - harmonic Society, the Los Angeles Zipper Orches - tra, and many other arts groups giving concerts, masterclasses and numerous solo and chamber recitals in southern California. Beth is an acclaimed international solo recital artist. She regularly gives solo performances, plays chamber recitals, lectures, and teaches mas - terclasses around the world. Beth has degrees in Tuba Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and The University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is cur - rently working on a Doctorate at U.S.C. in Tuba, Musicology, Conducting, and Arts Leadership. Her principal teachers have been David Fedderly, Tommy Johnson, Jim Self, and Roger Bobo. She is on the faculties of Pasadena City College, and Biola University. Additionally, Ms. Mitchell is an International Performing Tuba Artist and Clini - cian for Eastman Winds and is a Wessex Cimbasso Artist.
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