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 techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: nothingisrevealed 
Date:   2019-07-30 19:56

Greetings clarinet friends! This is my first post here after lurking for years. I am a 57yo woman who about 4 years ago restarted Bb and bass clarinet after many years away. I have spent the past year really focusing on my embouchure and voicing, which has definitely improved my tone. Now I would like to learn how to breathe through my diaphragm rather than up in my chest.

I have been doing "crunches" that supposedly strengthen the diaphragm, and they are definitely helping with the air speed/air support. But..I still need to master the internal coordination that will help me to subconsciously and continually push air from my diaphragm, rather than having to manually think about it and then pushing the air. (unless it really is as simple as thinking about it and then doing it? if yes, please tell me that.)

A friend suggested Alexander Technique lessons, but they are $60 an hour and the instructor recommends 10 lessons to learn the overall technique. The instructor does not teach "mini courses" focusing on just air support, but rather teaches the entire AT curriculum.

Do you know of any free/lower cost resources, tips/techniques/whatever that will help me learn to automatically breathe from my diaphragm?

I'd also like to thank the site admins of woodwind.org and the clarinet BBoard in particular for providing this forum, which is invaluable for non-professional musicians like me. Thank you!

cheers--kathy

Post Edited (2019-07-30 19:58)

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-30 21:14

Although it's true the diaphragm is used in tandem with abdominal muscles to control output, the diaphragm's only job upon contraction is to expand the thoracic cavity, lower the pressure around the fleshy sacks we call lungs and cause them to fill with air (there are some basic YouTube videos that illustrate this with a bell jar analogy).


One thing that helped me was being conscious of the abdominal expansion when you take a breath and realize that when you expel air with support, your stomach (area) remains out. Both Robert Marcellus (formerly of the Cleveland Orchestra and Northwestern Univ.) and Clark Brody (formerly of the Chicago Symphony and Northwestern Univ.) were adamant about that.




..............Paul Aviles



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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: eac 2017
Date:   2019-07-31 00:19

Google “ breathing gym”. Both book and videos by brass players. Don’t overthink this but but the exercises will definitely help.

Liz Leckey

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-31 01:37

eac wrote:

> Don’t overthink this ...
>

I think this part of eac's comment may be more helpful than the rest. The thing is, filling your lungs isn't a function of strength or athletic prowess. It depends more on relaxing your abdominal muscles and allowing your lungs to expand fully as your diaphragm involuntarily drops to allow air in. Exerting your abdominals on inhalation is more likely than anything else to constrict the lungs. Once the lungs fill, the mechanics of exhaling in a controlled way depend on controlled engagement of the abdominals (I'm deliberately avoiding the word "tension") so that a steady stream of air reaches the reed with enough forward motion to move the reed. None of that takes strength in an athletic sense. It takes careful attention to what you're doing. Alexander may be useful in that it includes a lot of relaxation and, as I understand it, direct, efficient movement (I've never studied it).

I know I'll take heat from some of the other Bboard members for this, but I really think the concept of "pushing" air from your diaphragm (which can't push air anywhere) or any other muscle is overblown (pun half-intended). To the extent that "pushing" becomes misunderstood by an inexperienced player to be almost synonymous with "forcing" it becomes at best counterproductive and at worst destructive to controlled playing. You need to provide the amount of air flow under the amount of pressure necessary to produce a controlled, even sound. So, conceptually, I think the most important thing you can try to do is not to force the air or strengthen any muscles but instead to let the air into your lungs so they fully expand and then *let* the air flow into the mouthpiece to produce the sound. And don't overthink - breathing is something you do naturally.

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-31 02:55

The physics of wind instrument playing is unfortunately not natural. I would never use the word force, but you need to generate a pressure differential. It is this difference between the pressure in your mouth vs. the zero pressure of the standing air column in the instrument that is what allows the standing column to vibrate. The only way to create the pressure in your mouth is to actively push the air. Again, this is not "X Games" pushing, only it needs to be roughly what you need to blow up a medium sized balloon. If you just "let the air flow into" a balloon, you wouldn't have an inflated balloon.


I like to pair this sort of talk with the fact that you don't need to push air into a wind instrument at all! The reed buzzing is really just an actuator.


Contemplate the following:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZvDvuxjHvU


Some of Boarders have already done this with a clarinet using latex glove material as a membrane between the mouthpiece and the rest of the horn.




..................Paul Aviles



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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-31 10:08

Although the Alexander Technique is pretty amazing and surely worth studying it is not directly related to breathing. I feel it is more related to balance. Taking the tension off of your body when playing the clarinet or any instrument and even going for a walk. So lets say the human head weighs about 12 pounds on average or so. When you walk if your head is in position and balanced it feels great when you walk, but if you tilt your head forward just a shade the weight of your head is suddenly putting 12 pounds of force in your neck and your shoulders.

Thus proper head position, the Alexander Technique, when playing the clarinet and other instruments, takes away stress.

Well do you know where the diaphragm is located and how it actually works? This topic bugs me. Yes I've studied with Bob Marcellus and before that Fred Ormand who I feel had a keen sense and a strong hold at teaching young teens how to play. My feeling is the whole area is important. The easiest way to perhaps learn how to get comfortable is to walk fast or run a short distance and feel what your body is doing. You can't stop your lungs from working, the stomach muscles to stop , nor the diaphragm. If you aren't in the mood to exercise you can blow up a balloon. Once the balloon gets some use it becomes much easier. If you do this exercise for a bit, maybe looking into a mirror you can see what your body is doing.

So forget about the diaphragm. Most people have no idea where it's located and how it works and how big it is. Is it on the right side or left side of your body? How big is it? Does it work when you inhale or exhale? Where is it connected to? My guess as I write this 1 out of 500 people reading this really don't know! Don't worry, I didn't either until I looked it up in a medical book and realized it was a word that wasn't used properly. "Breath through your diaphragm?" What does this me? Forget about it. Buy a balloon or go for a fast walk or a jog.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Erez Katz 
Date:   2019-07-31 11:38

This is an excellent interview with Dr Ron Odrich

https://youtu.be/MU9e8P5Dkd0

Which touches the subject among many other things.

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-31 14:55

Thanks for posting this interview. There are a lot of great stories.....and dental advice. Of course the "meat of it" (and relevance to this discussion is 31:55 to 45:00 for those who shy away from an hour and eighteen minutes of video).



I can't wait to practice the "lateral tongue" thing and the "chewing on the sound."





................Paul Aviles



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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: nothingisrevealed 
Date:   2019-07-31 16:57

Wow--Thank you so much for your advice! i feel so honored connecting up with all of your collective wisdom. I hope I get to contribute to the forum as much as I will gain going forward. cheers and thank you again!

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-31 19:31

The comment from kdk above makes a lot of sense to me.

I'm learning to play the clarinet, in order to learn diphragm breathing and the involuntary nature of good healthy breathing is just gradually becoming apparent to me.

I think if a person is very tense then they can end up unintentionally holding their breath, and then breathing moves to the shoulder area.

Just recently I tried to doing a load of heavy gardening (pick axe stuff mostly) and after that I found that my abdominal breathing became completely automatic, just as KDK says. It was a very big change, and nothing to do with intentionally breathing in or out or with any particular muscle. I just knocked all of the tension out of my muscles and they kind of started working properly all on their own.

After that I came to understand what "support" meant, because it just started to work all by itself.

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-07-31 20:27

>> Just recently I tried to doing a load of heavy gardening (pick axe stuff mostly) and after that I found that my abdominal breathing became completely automatic, just as KDK says. It was a very big change, and nothing to do with intentionally breathing in or out or with any particular muscle. I just knocked all of the tension out of my muscles and they kind of started working properly all on their own. >>

You were in a situation where your body systems directly caused you to breathe, because your body needed more oxygen. In this case, your breathing was involuntary.

But of course the diaphragm can be used voluntarily, or intentionally, as in: "Now I'm going to breathe in!"

With an experience of the first sort of breathing, you breathe in VOLUNTARILY using the same physical actions.

Karl wrote:

>> The thing is, filling your lungs isn't a function of strength or athletic prowess. >>

Indeed.

>> It depends more on relaxing your abdominal muscles and allowing your lungs to expand fully as your diaphragm involuntarily drops to allow air in. >>

The misleading word here is 'involuntarily'. If you've been engaging in the physical exercise you describe, then yes, you'll breathe willy-nilly, so your diaphragm is acting independently of voluntary control.

But if you're taking a breath prior to playing the clarinet, then your diaphragm IS subject to voluntary control – you decide when to take the breath, for example. And, with some discomfort, you COULD override your post-exercise involuntary breathing for a second or two.

The subjects of breathing and support have been extensively rehearsed here, by me and others:

http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=20&i=714&t=714

...and, if you can bear it:

http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=20&i=1132&t=1132

A difficulty you will notice in these exchanges is that it's very difficult to talk about physical matters without using elementary scientific concepts, and not everyone here is familiar with those. For example:............Paul Aviles "would never use the word 'force'," which means that his posts inhabit a pre-Newtonian worldview.

SOME people find it strange to hear that a feather exerts a downward force on a table on which it is resting, and want to argue about it. Yet, if we are to understand feathers and tables – and clarinets – we need the word.

Tony



Post Edited (2019-07-31 20:44)

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Dibbs 
Date:   2019-08-01 14:45

> Paul Aviles "would never use the word 'force'," which means that his posts inhabit a pre-Newtonian worldview.

That made me chuckle, you bloody minded owd bugger.

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-08-01 17:49

Thanks Tony, I'll have a look at those. I completely understand what you mean about the feather, and I also understand why Paul would not use the word "force". I reckon it's when we've understood both of those sides that it all starts to make sense.

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 Re: techniques to develop diaphragm breathing
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-08-01 18:53

In the sense that you're implying here, I myself would not use the word 'force' to a student when describing the act of playing.

But unfortunately, if you deny that there ARE any forces – say acting between the lips and the reed, or between the fingers and the toneholes – then there is no vocabulary to characterise the situation. That it's not useful to talk about 'pushing' the gas pedal to a learner driver doesn't alter the fact that, in the end, that's what happens to make the car go.

The work of ............Paul Aviles is very inconsequential here. He has a strong presence; but his persistent misunderstandings and obfuscations over the years have done considerable damage to intelligent enquiry.

I strongly deny that he and I represent different 'sides', because his side is, mostly, nonsense.

Tony



Post Edited (2019-08-02 02:28)

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