The "Circle of Breath"
Circle of Breath
By popular demand: the circle of breath:
The first step is a prepared body. If our chest cavity is "collapsed", we have to inflate it with force. That is pretty stupid. When we are sitting or standing up straight but relaxed (yoga is VERY good for this), all we have to do is inhale. We can get a huge amount of air without having to pressurize the lungs by force. Learning to prepare the body for playing is easy with beginners and increasingly difficult for players with more experience as they have to break habits to make new ones! It is important to have this activity monitored.
Once the body is big and relaxed, we draw a big circle. The left side (moving clockwise) is inhale and the right side is exhale. Notice at the top and bottom of the circle that it is still round - no disturbances. Our transition from inhale to exhale and exhale to inhale must mirror that. We do not hold air in, it is either moving in or out. We have to practice getting BIG breaths without building up tension in the throat or upper body. We use the diaphragm to inhale, but subconsciously. We don't need to think about how those muscles work, we just give them the big, relaxed body and they know what to do!
We do not need to "push" our air out, we just exhale. Generally students have a BIG problem getting a big breath and then just exhaling. There is so much "learned" tension present that they need weeks to get this down.
Once our breathing works (in my lessons that means when I am satisfied - not when the student thinks that they are done), then we replace exhale with play. We do not tongue notes, we just switch to exhale and what happens, happens. The goal here is to develop the breathing apparatus and lips so that we are so relaxed that sound comes at the peak of the circle with no kickstart by the tongue. A couple of weeks of long tones this way shows us a lot about everything that we have been doing wrong. Notice how Rashawn in the youtube just exhales a triple C? Completely free of hard work! This is how it has to work in every register. Just exhale the note.
When I am happy with this stage, the student exhales into lipslurs - same principle - no tongue! Just exhale! Another couple weeks goes by to "perfect" this (it is never perfect) and we have made a considerable step forward. Our tone is no longer dependent on the tongue to reliably speak - regardless of how high or low, loud or soft. Generally with no tongue applied, we can lip slur a fifth to an octave more than we had before. The range caves when making music because we are still missing too much stuff.
At this point I have very specific things to learn to add the tongue. Critical here is that we do not use the sledgehammer tonguing that we needed when we were using pressure, we have to develop infinitely small "T", "D", "K", "G", "L", "R" attacks that are only used to "articulate" the beginning of the tone that occurs at the peak of the Circle of Breath. The tonguing must occur EXACTLY at the point where we switch from in- to exhale. If we tongue too early or late, we screw up the transition. This means we are back to long tones and trained ears and eyes to insure that old habits don't screw up what we have now carefully built. Once long tones work, we can tongue the initial intro into the lip slur. If our tone without attack was clean, the articulation is only frosting on top of the cake!
Following this, the student gets easy tunes like from the hymnbook and we work on proper breathing and articulation of real music.
This Circle of Breath is as far as I am concerned the biggest deal in trumpet playing. Without being able to do this, the rest can't ever click. It is as simple as inhale/exhale. The problem is understanding what we have done to ourselves: how sloppy we sit, stand, walk. How crappy our posture is, how caved in our upper body is, how tense our neck and shoulders are because we hang our heads, how brutal our tonguing is to kickstart a screwed embouchure that uses excessive pressure to enable playing at all. In addition we have a learned unwillingness to accept very small steps of improvement because we have learned to download cheats and believe the idiots that claim to have silver bullets for problems. We do not even notice the small improvements and therefore get frustrated that we haven't experienced the "miracle". I won't even get into lifestyle and attitude.
The human state is a product of what we repeatedly do. We need challenges and successes. We need the wisdom to prepare ourselves adequately for the challenges any time that we can. That foundation can carry us a long way if it is solid.
I am very passionate about process and that is why people get angry with my "approach". I don't really care. They can put me on their ignore list, go somewhere else or rally enough people to drive me off. TrumpetMaster is for free and to be honest, I am here because what I do has helped quite a few. If the community changes for what I consider to be the worse, I have no financial or emotional ties.
Thank you for digging this out. I had as much fun putting it originally together as many had after using it for a while.
It took me a while before I intuitively arrived at releasing the beginning of the note with the change point between inhale/exhale. I did it a long time before I knew I was doing it, and that tangible realization came about when I was teaching winds. Sometimes the process is reversed. In having to articulate things for a student, you can find ways of verbalizing things you've been doing all along but just didn't stop to reflect on the process.
I don't think this is anything new but it is a nice way of consolidating and presenting the technique. This is a nice, clear way of articulating exactly what you're doing and how you do it. Nice, rowuk.
Dr GO last edited by
The first step is a prepared body. If our chest cavity is "collapsed", we have to inflate it with force. That is pretty stupid. When we are sitting or standing up straight but relaxed (yoga is VERY good for this), all we have to do is inhale. We can get a huge amount of air without having to pressurize the lungs by force. Learning to prepare the body for playing is easy with beginners and increasingly difficult for players with more experience as they have to break habits to make new ones!
A very important step. And taking the above step one step further, I have devoted an hour each morning (even before hitting the trumpet practice routine) to a series of bow flex exercises to help build intercostal muscles in my chest to more effectively increase my chest capacity.
The bow flex machine is ideal for chest wall development, as unlike free weights, the rods can be maneuvered over a variety of arches and planes the work both intercostals used for both inhalation and exhalation. I do 15 reps starting with 50 lb, then 60 lb, then 100 lb, then 160 lb finally 210 lbs for each set. There are 9 sets I have developed to my chest routine and another 7 set I have developed for abdominal muscles. This work out has really increased the efficiency of trumpet playing.
@Dr-GO We must be careful with ANY machines or athletic programs for muscle development. Playing the trumpet IS physical, but is fine motor activity. Building a 6 pack is mostly contraproductive as we learn to use ever more force in conjunction with our body. We need thousands of „lowest“ impact reps to develop the patterns for playing to keep tension down and still get enough development. The prepared body is something earned in this special way. I avoid all advanced development with the Circle of Breath. It is potentially detrimental as most of us do not understand the connections between body and mind that are also developed in very small steps.
This low impact „requirement“ is actually something for life in general. Really good yoga, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique teachers only work this way. Our bad body habits are also built a little more slouch every day. Fixing them is not by force, rather gently.
That all being said, there are many fine players that work out intensively. We have to know that they did not build their playing habits this way. Once we are at a high level of playing, our bodies are very resilient. This fact has resulted in many „brute force“ embouchure and playing methods over time. They have not withstood the test of time!
Dr GO last edited by
@ROWUK your cautionary comment is well understood. My work out is prioritized for increasing chest volume (capacity) rather than strength as I agree that brut force is our enemy.
As for the abs exercise, that's more for toning my middle age spread.