Wind Instruments Leave You Breathless

Do you ever feel tired or dizzy after playing your wind instrument? Chances are it is because of all that air you use and your body is not used to how you are using that air. A lot of beginning wind players you see, will raise their shoulders when breathing in. This is a sign that they are taking shallow breaths and therefore, breathing incorrectly. Yes, there is a right and wrong way to breath and it pertains to all wind instruments. There are two main things to focus on when breathing to play a wind instrument, breath support and focus of the air-stream.

The first tip to breathing correctly is to try to make yourself yawn. That’s right, yawn! When you start yawning, notice how the air gets sucked down to the bottom of your stomach, passes your belly-button. When you do this, your stomach naturally expands outward and your throat feels open. When you release your yawn, there is a steadily fast air-stream that comes out of your mouth. This is basically the kind of air you use when playing a wind instrument, only you have your embouchure set when releasing the air. As you practice breathing this way, you will start to feel how to make yourself take a full breath without yawning. Another exercise you could try, is seeing how long you can keep a small piece of paper pinned to the wall using only your air-stream. This exercise can be connected to another, take four second breath and see how long you can blow without stopping, then take a two second breath and see if you can blow just as long as you did when you took the four second breath. Not only do these exercises require a full breath, they require a lot of air focus.

There are many analogies you could use to help with breath support and focus of air. One analogy you could use, is to pretend that you are a blowup lawn decoration, that you see during the holidays, full of air. Imagine that the hole you make for your embouchure  is someone who has poked a small hole in that decoration and very fast, very focused air is seeping out of a tiny hole, from the whole decoration to the open air. Another analogy is picture a lit candle an arms length away from you; try to blow out that candle. Next, imagine that your air stream is an arrow flying to a target. Finally, imagine that that your air is a dart being thrown and hitting a bulls-eye. A simple analogy for a full breath is to breath in down to your feet. There are countless of other analogies that could be used to describe breathing correctly.

Breathing correctly pertains to all instruments, and it will help with other things like pitch, tone, and intonation. However, some wind instruments require more air than others, like flute and tuba; tubas use the most air because of how big the instrument is, but why flute? If you look around, you will notice that flute is the only wind instrument you will find that does not blow directly into the instrument itself. Most of the air is blown across the opening rather than into the instrument. So as you can see, when it comes to taking a breath to play a wind instrument, it is not as simple as breathing in and releasing the air; it takes focus and breath support.