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 circular breathing
Author: smokey4016 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:05

Has anyone mastered "Circular Breathing " if so, are there any good tutorials out there to watch? This was mentioned to my son that he should learn how to do this..

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:08

I have not yet myself, but I have an advanced high school clarinet student who was motivated to work on it himself. He said that he was "embarrassed to say as a jazz fiend that the Kenny G video on Youtube was the best" he found.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: smokey4016 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:11

Thank you, I will let my son know... he's been working on it for a while now.. and it is very, very difficult. Any advice or someone he can watch will help !

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:17

This is easiest with softer reeds and start on low E.
It really is not that hard to get smooth, but takes a 10 minutes everyday for about a year.
If you do a search for circular breathing, you will find a few threads on it.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: smokey4016 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:19

Thank you

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:40

It's easy on oboe/cor due to the high breath resistance (best note to practice it on is upper register D oxx|xxx), though I haven't had nearly as much success with it on clarinet/sax (but almost managed it).

And as for flute - I don't think I'll even entertain trying it!

You do need to have the breath resistance in order to make it work - blowing bubbles into a glass of water through a straw won't help as there's no breath resistance there, so do the soft reed/low note method mentioned above to get you started.

It's one of those things that once they're learnt, they're never forgotten.


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 Re: circular breathing
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2010-10-10 13:55

One thing to remember is that you have to not worry about "proper" embouchure- the cheeks must puff.
Circular breathing works similar to a bagpipe, but in this case, the bag is one's mouth.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2010-10-10 14:06

I don't think it's really necessary to learn, but some players use it, often even.

The water and straw can help a bit but the hardest step for me was moving from that to actual playing. The straw was easy to learn. The most helpful was watching someone do it on a clarinet just in front of me. That was the first day I actually managed to do it on a clarinet.

Then it took about 10-20 minutes of practice almost every day for about 2-3 months until I was able to use it for something I wanted. Then a few more months to have better control. By that I mean mainly stamina, at first I got tired after about 30-40 seconds, then can last a minute, then two minutes, etc. When I started using it a lot less and never practiced it I got tired faster again so IME it also needs apractice to maintain the level.

I think I've played sometimes up to about 5-10 mintues with circular breathing. Some excellent players play even 15-30 minutes solos with this technique. Although I often listen to those kind of solos, which can be very good, I never tried that, but I imagine it takes a lot more practice.

Here is a short example from one piece

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2010-10-10 15:16

I also don't think it is necessary to learn either. But, as asked on another board topic, how advanced is your son?

I find it easier to do in the Clarion register (particularly D5-G5ish) because there is more resistance. When I find the need to circular breathe, I tend to try to do it in that register if possible because it is a bit easier for me. I tend to do it a lot on oboe/EH because it was so much easier on those instruments to learn.

Also, if you're just doing it for show, it's usually not that big of a deal to learn. I use it to extend musical lines. As an oboist, I tend to play Tchaik. Symphony 4, 2nd movement without breathing at all, as well as when I play any Bach Sonatas/Sinfonias.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: GeorgeL 2017
Date:   2010-10-10 15:24

"Has anyone ever mastered circular breathing?"

Answer: yes, and he teaches others how to do it.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: NBeaty 
Date:   2010-10-10 15:26

It's not a bad thing to learn and is certainly not very difficult to learn. When to use it is another story...

I use it in:

-Band. If I missed a breath and can't make it to the next one. (or if I got bored)

-Orchestra- Things like the Revueltas piece where the bass clarinet plays low Eb to low E in 16th notes for the first 5 minutes of the piece with no breaks and no place where you "wouldn't be missed" if you took a breath.

-Technique- Sometimes in practicing technical exercises at slower speeds I circular breath to keep from stopping the fingers. I don't do that frequently, but sometimes I find it beneficial so my brain and fingers keep going as they would going at a faster tempo.

Solo rep- Sometimes in performance or lesson there are long passages that went OK in the practice room or rehearsal, but all of the sudden in the heat of battle you find yourself out of breath well before you intended to be. A circular breath here and there can save you from crashing and burning.

To learn:

I never did any of the straw in a cup tactics. All I did was to think about it, conceptually, for a while before even trying it. Contemplating what has to go on and when and practicing letting my cheeks puff out. All can be done by forming a small opening\embouchure and literally blowing air out of your mouth, making the opening small enough to have a working resistance.

Then, as others have stated, working on it for a few minutes each day. A year to master it is ridiculous to me. It may indeed be better after a year, but to be able to do it well enough for performance shouldn't take very long and can be done in a matter of days.

The first time I used this technique was in a solo performance of Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto when I ran out of breath before the low E was done on the first page. It saved me from just dying away on a note that was long and Forte.

Good luck!

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: smokey4016 
Date:   2010-10-10 19:36

Thank you for your advice!!

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: Alfred 
Date:   2010-10-11 15:11

I actually circular breathe regularly! I will say, though, it's more of a fancy trick that I use sometimes. Some people use it regularly, but since it's actually rather difficult to learn to do properly, on clarinet, I just use it for slow, lyrical passages, or, in a pinch, on a faster lick, but only as a last resort for the latter case. I actually had an easy time learning the technique, but a much harder time actually implementing it, and and even harder time learning to implement it regularly. If you do it incorrectly, you'll achieve the desired "playing non-stop" effect, but you will put a serious dent in your intonation, and it'll send you very, very flat.

I actually learned from Terry Ewell's videos; he's a fantastic bassoonist, but all you have to do is watch what he does, and apply it to clarinet.

Part I:
Part II:

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: Dick 
Date:   2010-10-11 18:53

Not sure there is really all that much need for circular breathing unless you play the didgeridoo.


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 Re: circular breathing
Author: curiousclarinetist 
Date:   2010-10-11 21:50

Michele Gingras offers a video tutorial to circular breathing. It involved pushing water out of the mouth through a coffee straw in order to simulate the motions need to expel air using only the cheeks and tongue. The video is available on Youtube as well as iTunes, both for free.

Curious Clarinetist

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2010-10-12 01:06

Circular breathing, conceptually, and at it's root is not too hard to do. Making it sound good and mastering it is tough. It's kinda like skiing. At first you pizza pie the entire mountain, and it'll be a while before you feel comfortable bombing down those double black diamonds. Then after MANY years you become Robert Spring and you're going down those double blacks backwards on one ski.

Like people asked before, where is your son at level wise? There might be better things for him to spend time on than circular breathing. Keep in mind there are plenty of pros out there who don't circular breath. I'm interested in it, and I'm going to work on it, but it won't make me a great player.


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 Re: circular breathing
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-10-12 01:10

Big problem of players who circular breathe is that they don't play seperate phrases - they play run-ons constantly.

Wind music needs to breathe

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: smokey4016 
Date:   2010-10-12 01:47

Thanks all for your advice!! We appreciate it... By the way Steven would be considered advanced... He is working out of Klose and Rose Etudes 32 ...He is getting ready for college..Jr at H.S.

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