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 circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-16 23:36

Recently I have seen references to circular breathing on oboe; and have seen a video of someone doing it (youtube interview with Sarah Williams, horn player) and am wondering how common this is. I did learn to sort of circular breathe on dijeridoo but there were "bumps" in it that I didn't take the time to work out. And that instrument has a lot of air and almost no pressure, so it would be opposite to trying to circular breathe on oboe.

The player in this video seems to be doing it; watch his cheeks going in and out.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=VL1ud6pjy-Y



Post Edited (2019-01-16 23:37)

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2019-01-17 01:00

I suggest taking a look at Stephen Moschner's website on oboecentral.com.au. He has a section there on circular breathing and how to learn it. I have tried, but cannot get it right no matter how I try, but a lot of people have had success using the method described there.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2019-01-17 02:24

The question is "Why do you want to do it?"

Any decent player can play for at least 30 seconds on one breath, so the only reason for circular breathing on the oboe is to play for longer than that.

I an understand it being useful for instruments that use a greater quantity of air, like clarinets and saxes, but unles you're going to play outrageously long phrases for some reason, it's not really necessary.

I worked on it for a while just for fun, but I never found it to be too useful, plus playing with vibrato is virtually impossible while circular breathing.

The only thing I have found it useful for is to avoid having to alternate breathing out and in on very long phrases in which there is no place for complete breaths.

Dane
Bay Area, California

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-18 02:05

I can easily play for 30 seconds, although having been a brass player for so long I tend to take in too much air and get backed up. The demo I referred to was a baroque piece that had no breaks in it for a couple of minutes. The player said clearly "back then" they used circular breathing or the music would not have been written that way.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: borris 
Date:   2019-01-18 04:58

Of course, they used it. Look at Pascullis "Le Api", this is 5 minutes without any chance of breathing.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-20 23:47

Thanks for the reference to the .au site. I downloaded the pdf. Funny that there is a section on getting rid of the "bumps" which has been precisely my problem. There is a "bump" after I empty my cheeks and resume using lung air, because the lung air has more pressure behind it. I"ll be interested to see what he says. I can keep air flow going through a straw into water forever, but that is about zero pressure.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: mberkowski 
Date:   2019-01-21 16:26

I have been reading a 1967 edition of "Woodwind Instruments and Their History" by Anthony Baines, which I stumbled on in my University's library. The author is English and presents much of the material with an opinionated humor probably lost on me as an American. Yesterday, I reached his passage on circular breathing in the chapter on performance (emphasis added):

"**Purely as a stunt**, some oboe-players, past and present, have acquired the faculty of taking breath as glass-blowers and Oriental reed-instrument players do, namely by inhaling through the nose whilst actually blowing the instrument"

My own teachers treated it more or less as a stunt too (one teacher could do it) but I'm starting to realize how common it actually is among soloists now that it's easy to watch performances on youtube. If I recall, I saw a video in which Albrecht Mayer was talking about the Bach Partita BWV1013 from the assumption that circular breathing had to have been part of the part of the performance practice in Bach's time. Otherwise, no one could have played the piece as it is written.

Michael

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2019-01-22 00:54

It is something I wish I had learned when I was young and mastered, but when I started playing, a few people could do it, but most oboists could not. In my humble opinion though, it is an easily abused technique that tends to make nonsense out of phrasing when applied indiscriminately. Many transcriptions of baroque music are a case in point. Impossible to play without double breathing, they are often reduced to long lines of notes. Bach never internded his partitas to be written for an oboe, so I am dubious about that idea. Of course, the technique was later applied by virtuoso oboe composers and there are some pieces of music where it is almost indispensible. Unfortunately, You-Tube is a double-edged sword, a great resource but one that can also aid the spread of less desirable attributes that are cropping up in modern oboe playing. Such mannerisms can be quite difficult to discourage in young impresasionable minds.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-01-22 09:34

Geoffrey Browne, in his "The Art of Cor Anglais," gives rather extensive instructions for circular breathing--but concludes the section by saying "there are only a very few pieces that require circular breathing, and so I would say that if you still find circular breathing a problem then forget about it altogether."

Just looking at what I just typed, I wonder: if there is an altogether, is there also a tenorgether and a bassgether?

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: circular breathing
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2019-01-22 17:02

I find it helpful in my playing. I've been doing it since high school (got challenged by a saxophone player about a year after starting the oboe, and since the back pressure was much higher, I picked it up pretty quickly).

For phrasing purposes, I find it to be akin to my string player background. I could play longer phrases without breaking, and still develop the line while giving breadth to the passage. Many people use it and don't give the appropriate phrasing...you can still pause without taking a breath.

After playing several of the Bach cantatas, I find it necessary in a lot of baroque music. I wonder if their reeds were less resistant, and you got rid of more air through playing. A less resistant reed would allow for the quick breaths that flutes can do because there's no back pressure to need to release stacked air. I often use circular breathing to avoid the need for both exhale and inhale in the small amount of time we actually have to breath. I also find it much more taxing on the embouchure to breath like this...It's almost a need to release and rebuild the embouchure each time, where if I circular breathe, I can keep my embouchure much longer (which seems backwards!).

As oboists, we do have it the easiest of all instruments to circular breathe, with flute being the hardest (at least that was the hardest for me to learn to do...it came many years after the others). I feel like composers know this and utilize it, or they don't and we have do to it because we can't take the rapid breaths that other instruments can take.



mschmidt, there should also be a sopranogether, and mezzo-sopranogether :-)

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist
Performer/Teacher/Arranger
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: mberkowski 
Date:   2019-01-22 19:21

With regard to circular breathing being easier on oboe than other instruments - I would just add that I found it very easy to pickup on the recorder because there is no embouchure to hold or reset and momentary spikes or drops in breath pressure have little immediate effect. It's not really different from the circular breathing training exercises involving blowing through a straw. I can't do it on oboe but haven't invested time into figuring it out.

Michael

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-22 21:53

Since I've only done circular breathing on dijeridoo and attempted it on tuba, for me it seems that the strength of the cheek muscles has to be great to get the required pressure for oboe. Then I see people saying it's easier on oboe because of less air required. I'll just have to try it on a reed and see what I get, I guess. I'm currently not doing any playing for health reasons, but when I get back to it (hopefully) we'll see. So do single reed players do it? I've seen, long ago, one guy on sax who was a street player doing it, so clearly it's possible.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-23 21:10

For really obvious circular breathing, start watching this video at about 3:50 and you will see the trumpet player's cheeks expand and contract.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y8vi2S8Rx0

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-01-24 05:05

For a physical science perspective on this topic, consider this: Playing the oboe requires a certain velocity of air through a narrow opening, and that velocity can only be achieved with a certain pressure difference between the air in the mouth and the air in the bore of the instrument. If you can play the oboe, your cheek muscles are already strong enough to maintain that pressure in the mouth even if you generate that pressure by contracting the diaphragm at the base of your lungs. If your cheeks weren't strong enough, contraction of the diaphragm would result in your cheeks puffing out instead of the air going through the reed and into the oboe.

The only difference with circular breathing is that you have to maintain constant pressure while actually moving your cheek muscles from a contracted, to a relaxed, and then back to a contracted state.

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: circular breathing
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2019-01-24 07:43

Single reed (and no reed) players can do it, and do it regularly. I use it often on clarinet and saxophone, and on flute.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist
Performer/Teacher/Arranger
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-01-24 20:35

So Concertmaster, did you use any particular method to learn it, or was it just time and effort?

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2019-02-10 08:45

EaubeauHorn,

Sorry for the delay in reply! I mostly did trial and error. I tell most people to start without the reed, and get an idea of what it feels like to push out air while breathing in air. Then do that with the reed, and then to try a decently resistant and stable note, like half-hole D. Build up the pressure inside and towards the front of your mouth, and press the air out while breathing in.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist
Performer/Teacher/Arranger
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-02-17 23:50

TY. Don't know when I'll be getting back to any instrument on any serious level because am moving cross country and at same time taking up staff position where they want both my degrees of music and EE for help in development of some audio technology for learning to change your brainwave pattern on purpose. Expect to be very interested and have gotten an apartment that will probably limit my noise-making. Fortunately I have an electronic piano with headphones that I can whack away on if I get desperate for self-produced sound.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: sb1920alk 
Date:   2019-03-07 10:04

You don’t need to puff your cheeks. Just move your tongue forward. You’ll likely have to switch to mouth-air, exhale, switch to lung-air, switch to mouth-air again, then inhale, and finally switch back to lung-air. ...hope that makes sense. Your endurance is limited as there’s still no fresh blood flow to your lips. I’ve played Le Api, but it’s really only used to show off or to be lazy from time to time. I’ve played the prelude to the first Bach cello suite - up two octaves - and I do it there too, but that’s not really core oboe repertoire.

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 Re: circular breathing
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-03-08 00:36

Thanks. I'll remember that next time I'm ready to take a whack at it.

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