2019 May Breathing Well - FATB 3

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Playing Tips for Flute Players by Zoë Booth

Warm-Ups for Flute Players - Improve Your Playing by Exercises by Zoë Booth (published by Pipeblower Publishing, RRP £8.95)

If you’ve enjoyed Zoë’s hints and tips for free here, you can also purchase her book, packed with loads more exercises and in-depth descriptions  - a beautifully presented treat for yourself or a  flute-playing friend!

“Thank you. It’s brilliant! Looking forward to my practice session tomorow.”

“I love the prescriptions for 30 minute and 10 minute warm-ups; it’s easy to work out which exercises to do with limited time.”

May 2019
This month: Breathing Well
Welcome to my flute-playing free Hints and Tips Page; a new page is posted here on the first day of each month.

I can't pretend I'm not late with the teaching tip for this month (sorry guys!), but I hope you've enjoyed extra time perfecting your triplets from April. At the start of April we had such a lovely course at The Crewe and Harpur in Longnor, really special music-making both as a group and from all the individuals, and lots of laughs and fun moments throughout the week too. It's not long to go until the June course at Lapwing Barns, hurrah!

Breathing-wise, it's not long since we talked a bit about the mechanics of breathing really well, so this time I'm going to give you some exercises on making your breathing last longer, which is something - you can imagine - that I get asked about all the time. Firstly though, it's really important to stress that lasting longer is only a secondary aim for your breath; first and foremost it's really important that you play with the best sound that you can - free-sounding and supported for projection. So, if you're not getting through your phrases, BEFORE you start thinking about breathing exercises to stretch your air and capacity, think about whether there are additional places in the music where you can take a breath and still be musical, as that's a much better solution for you. By contrast, making your breath last a long time but with a puny sound is the opposite of what you want to achieve - if you think there is a danger this could be you, these exercises are not for you.

If you're playing with a good sound, you've already covered some of the things we talked about in March, for instance supporting and providing resonance, but maybe you're just finding you want to see if there is anything you can do to last that little bit longer through the phrase. If that is you, these exercises are for you!

Click here to download Breathing Well May 2019 (.pdf)>>

First of all, let's find where you are comfortable with your breathing; try this exercise, observing the crotchet = 60 marking, trying four beats to breathe in, four beats to hold and a starting place of blowing out on your note for between 8 and 12 beats (whatever gets you to the stage where you feel empty enough to hold the fourth bar for four beats before you begin the cycle again). Try this with notes in each of the three registers, to check that this is a good baseline amount for you. Repeat the cycle without pausing in between a useful amount of times, for instance 4-8 cycles (but don't overdo it). When you feel you are successfully managing this consistently over a couple of days of practice, start to play with the durations, the ultimate objectives being to increase the amount of time you spend blowing out as well as reducing the amount of time spent breathing in.

* It's important to remember that, in the end, you also want to get to the stage where you don't include the "holding" as part of your breathing cycle at all in your normal, everyday playing; these "holds" (on full, in the second bar, and on empty, in the fourth bar of the cycle) are purely for training purposes.*

So, to meet our above-stated objectives, next try the following adaptations; this might take several weeks to try developing these different avenues, with just one exercise a day being enough if you are focussed. To reduce the time for breathing in and each hold, whilst maintaining the same amount of blowing out time, or gradually increasing it you may have started with:

In - 4, Hold - 4, Out - 10, Hold - 4

Next try:

In - 2, Hold - 2, Out - 12, Hold - 2

Moving to:

In - 1, Hold - 0, Out - 13, Hold - 0

Maybe you'll find in a few weeks you can get these numbers to develop further, or add other challenges of higher/lower notes/moving notes whilst you play, but find out what works for you. Do challenge yourself if you want to feel a difference being made. If you take it too kindly on yourself (for instance, no-one likes to hold on empty and then breathe in slowly for 4, at the first stage, so it's easy to rush through this part... be strict!) you will probably limit your improvement... but don't overdo things, it's very uncomfortable for a few days (and not just when you're playing) if you do this too much or stretch yourself too far too quickly - it's a marathon, not a sprint, as with all practice.

Well, good luck with your breathing this month, and not long to go until I see you in June for the next topic! Until then, happy flute-ing,


P.S. Please send your questions and comments to me at info@flutesatthebarns.com

Next Month, June 2019: Be Smart About C#s!

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