Don’t panic! Breathe easy.

It sounds like this weeks young subject is in a little bit of a panic. The truth is however that with some thought the problem isn’t nearly as big as it might seem:

I need you to help me with my breathing. I keep runing out at the wrong time or in the middle of notes. I’ve tried taking really big breaths but this doesn”t work. If I don”t get this right I might have to give up my clarinet.

Our reply:

Firstly, please don’t give up – you will almost certainly regret it later. Many people who learn an instrument when they are younger but give up, return to it in later life.

A game of 2 halves.
You should split your breathing issue into 2 parts. There is the actual technique of breathing and then there is the way that you are practising breathing. As a wind player I know a little about the first of these. The most important piece of advice I could give for breathing well is to stay completely relaxed. If you are not relaxed you restrict the amount of space and movement in your chest and lungs and will not breathe as well. You do need to breathe deeply but don”t think you need to take the most gigantic breath each and every note you play. I assume you are taking lessons and therefore you should discuss breathing technique with your teacher. If you don”t have a teacher I would suggest that you find one – try your local music shop.

Onto the practice.
We mentioned above the technique of breathing. My guess is that you don’t spend anytime practising your breathing technique. Therefore my first suggestion for you is that you spend a couple of minutes each time you practice practising your breathing. Try playing very long notes – it doesn’t matter which notes just try to play them as long as possible. Use a metronome and see how many beats you can hold for. Do this exercise for a few weeks and your breathing will get much better.

When it comes to practising music you can improve your breathing by writing in some breath marks – a little tick on the music where you want to breath. If you mark these carefully you will avoid running out of breath in the middle of notes. Be careful though and make sure that once you’ve written them in you breathe in EXACTLY the same place each time.

Follow these couple of bits of advice and you should be breathing better in no time. Make sure you get back in touch and let us know how you get on.

Would you like to be the subject of a future practice clinic? Contact us with any practice problems and we’d be happy to help.

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