Breathing and playing

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K. Hay

Breathing and playing

Post by K. Hay » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:37 am

Hello all,

I have a question about breathing while playing. What are some of the principles behind the way to breathe while playing? For my part, I am not even sure if I breathe evenly while practising. I wonder if that is a start...breathing evenly.

Ken

MikFik

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by MikFik » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:24 am

YES!!! Always breath while playing your guitar. This is a skill I learned many years ago and I have never regretted it.
The goal is to stay relaxed while playing and this takes different methods for different people and breathing is part of it.
I would like to hear other peoples advise on this subject myself.

lil_clair

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by lil_clair » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:28 am

:lol:

"yes, always breathe while you are playing" - excellent advice.

best way to make sure you are breathing is to sing the phrases out loud as you play - that way you have to take a breath. it'll help your playing too.

:okok:

K. Hay

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by K. Hay » Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:04 am

mikflik and lil_claire (I hope I got the names right): Thank you! I was worried that my query was irrelevant, but I have heard that breathing is important. Relaxed and sing out the phrases, which means you have to breathe. Wil try that. Ken

LFP

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by LFP » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:41 pm

Yes I enjoy breathing while I play. Handy. Jokes aside there are lots of ways to develop this.

e.zurcher started a recent thread talking about "a new approach to playing" which contained a detailed explanation about breathing based on the sung sense of a phrase. In essence sing a phrase and note your breathing in and out. Then play the same phrase modeling your "instrumental" breathing and your own breathe on the original breath pattern. But follow up the original e.zurcher thread.
Another way to develop breathing is to sing your phrase sorting out the phrase shape using breath as your shaping guide. Once done then play phrase on your instrument shaping it the original way but split your breathing as suits fit. That is you may decide that one phrase is all done on in breathe and the next phrase on an breathing out. Or you may decide that you are going to split your breathing across a phrase so first half may be in and second half out or vice versa.
Breathing has many affects on phrasing sense and musical impact and needs to be "unconscious'.
Yet another way I recommend is taking folk song songs of all types and do all the above. I still start my daily practice with folk song. Sight sing, study the words if possible, play and experiment with all the different ways of making music of the phrases and consequently breath's impact on the musical sense. Breathe is the basis for all that is musical in music.

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KevinCollins
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Re: Breathing and playing

Post by KevinCollins » Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:33 pm

K. Hay wrote:Hello all,

I have a question about breathing while playing. What are some of the principles behind the way to breathe while playing? For my part, I am not even sure if I breathe evenly while practising. I wonder if that is a start...breathing evenly.

Ken
First of all, if you don't breathe, Ken, you will die.

Playing the music of Bach is very hard because, being an organist, he basically does not breathe. Guitar is like that.

Bach (at least the instrumental music) is is not like the Italian music -- Guiliani, for example, breathes -- they have that singing, vocal tradition.

I learned more about breathing sitting next to a flute player than in 20 years of guitar lessons. Flute players breathe all over the place.

Part of learning a piece is singing the note names. Try that. Don't know your note names? How about jazzing it up, do-be-do-be-do...

Cheers,

Kevin
Last edited by KevinCollins on Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Kevin Collins, Amherst, Mass, USA All rights reserved.

K. Hay

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by K. Hay » Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:41 pm

Kevin, I have to take some time to absorb all this! It is all very good. I like the mention of the fact that breathing is the source of music. It applies directly to many instruments and it has to apply indirectly at minimum to others, such as the guitar. I will also see if the research function can get me to that other thread you mentioned. Ken

musenji

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by musenji » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:11 pm

Breathing is a subject I've given a lot of thought to, as it's been a problem of mine. Good breathing and relaxation are mutually reinforcing, just as are bad breathing and tension.

In Zen and the Art of Archery, the student learns to effortlessly perform an amazing physical feat (shooting a special kind of bow that requires a superlative strength to even pull back all the way), but it starts with proper deep breathing. I don't remember if it was months or years that he spent learning just to breathe properly before even picking up a bow, but it was a long time.

Breathing well is crucial to not adding any unnecessary tension to your body when playing. In fact, the best way I can think of to dispel anxiety over a passage is to practice it slowly, making sure your breathing stays deep. It can be mentally difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it begins to feel effortless. And having a "difficult" passage feel effortless is one of the best feelings I can imagine!

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Erik Zurcher
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Re: Breathing and playing

Post by Erik Zurcher » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:54 pm

Hi Ken,
This is a report about a workshop I attended about breathing: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=34611
Reedition Domingo Esteso by Conde Hermanos 2004; Kenny Hill, model Barcelona 2001
"While you try to master classical guitar, prepare for a slave's life: the guitar will forever be your master and you its slave".

maltuna

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by maltuna » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:41 pm

Wow, GREAT topic. I wish I had some good advice.

Sadly, however, I'm struggling with this both in Guitar and in Kendo and Iaido (japanese sword). All three are something where an onlooker would not really think Breathing was all that important, but actually - it is quite critical.

Specific to guitar, I tend to let my breathing and my body tension vary too much while playing, and for some reasons, subconcsiously, when I get near the end of a piece, whether it is a slow soft ending, or a fast, exploding abrupt one, I have a tendency to just let out this huge sigh of a breath as I'm finishing it up. Very annoying, as it just ruins everything because of what it does to the rest of my body.

On a related note, I've also found that pieces that I'm very famliar with, I tend to breath easier, and pieces I'm working on or struggling with, I breath like I'm running a race. Which makes me wonder if breathing and relaxation in general aren't symptoms rather than causes in some ways.

I guess that's analagous to the "face" concept in music, where someone who has a high level of ability can keep a completely relaxed facial expression throughout their playing. That's not to say that you can't make faces and sound great (I've seen a few professional classical guitarists whose face and head swing about as if they are heavy metal performers! haha, but that seems to be the exception), but I've heard music teachers say that part of practice is to keep your facial muscles relaxed while you play, and some high level classical guitarists go so far with that, they look a statue, except for their hands are moving! One time, I thought this one lady was having a "no blink" contest with someone in the audience !!

For me, I find I am typically doing "scrunchy" things with my face without realizing it at the same times I'm doing strange things with my breathing. Again, that's usually on pieces I'm struggling with or learning.

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KevinCollins
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Re: Breathing and playing

Post by KevinCollins » Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:49 am

K. Hay wrote:Kevin, I have to take some time to absorb all this! It is all very good. I like the mention of the fact that breathing is the source of music.
Rather than trying to understand the esoteric concept of "breathing", you might try just writing in the breath marks as part of your learning process. Before you even put the notes on the guitar, sing the tune. If you have to sing along with a recording, that is okay. See what happens.

My teacher wrote a book on practicing that puts this stuff in a reasonable order. I was studying with him at the time and he gave me all this stuff to try, so I got to work on it. Seems to work.

Writing in the breath marks would go along with dynamics and phrasing. Use pencil in case you change your mind later… and decide not to breathe.

Richard Provost
The Art & Technique of Practice
GSP Publications

Breathe in, breathe out… Repeat.

Cheers,

Kevin

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K. Hay

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by K. Hay » Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:03 am

Thanks to all for those posts and to e. zurcher for that link. Will see about incorporating all that information! Ken

davju

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by davju » Mon May 18, 2009 10:20 am

great thread.. this is what one of my early teachers would go on about.. im finally starting to see what he was on about. We often spent entire lessons, not playing, but doing various physical and motor excercises of wich breathing was an important component. (great also for groups of musicians..my teacher had this theory that timing in groups works by synching breathe and heart rates) Breathing and heartbeats are cues that mark the flow of time. regulating both these automatic responses is key to establishing proper rythymic and dynamic quantities in music.

Saei_mogheysi

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by Saei_mogheysi » Mon May 18, 2009 7:24 pm

i agree with you. thats important things that i never think about it. but i read in the book of the principle of correct practice for guitar that :

I have found it extremely useful to make a habit of "breathing into the pillow" at random times during playing, especially during difficult passages. It increases awareness of this important area, and helps relax everything.

:?:

dunholy

Re: Breathing and playing

Post by dunholy » Mon May 18, 2009 8:20 pm

Good Lord, I´m playing right now, breathing like I was singing the notes (I´m singing them in my head) and the impact is huge. Oxygen is really important. Wonder if Asians have an advantage here, as their culture setting often teach them how to breath at an early age. You can also hear heavy, deep breathing in many recordings. It sure helps to concentrate and relax.

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