Breathing - Important for Life, Important for your performance.


You can't live without it. In regards to saxophone playing, without a proper breathing technique you may not survive as a performer all too long either. Really! Think about it: How would you feel about playing a duet or in a saxophone section with another saxophonist who continually breaks up melodic phrases simply because they keep taking extra breaths in the most inconvenient places? Would you, could you be satisfied with that? If you were this saxophonist, could you rely on getting gigs anyway? Don't bet on it. Saxophonists get hired not only by their friends and other who appreciate them, but also by their reputation - how easy or difficult it is to work with you. 

Breathing is often soooooo neglected. We do automatically, so there's more of a chance to simply ignore it. Well, let's get on it! 

In order to support your breathing technique to the max you have to assume a comfortable, upright position when play, both when you're sitting or standing. The most natural way the human body breathes is not by raising the shoulders and expanding rib cage, but actually by the movement of the stomach and belly. Think about it. When you watch a baby sleep (or whoever you want to watch sleeping) notice that it is the stomach that moves. This enables the lungs to be optimally filled. Breathing by raising the shoulders and expanding is much too shallow and only fills the upper part of the lungs. Remember, the lungs are not two empty bags, but rather bags that have several canal ways in them. You can think of them as bags with several little long balloons in them. 

Let's try a few of exercises. 


When Inhaling, protrude your abdomen and pull in your shoulder blades slightly. 

When exhaling, pull in your abdomen and relax your shoulder blades. 

1. The "1-4-2" Exercise: 

Without your sax: 

Stand straight and hold your hands on your hips. 

Inhale for 1 count. 

Hold your breath for 4 counts. 

Exhale slowly for 2 counts. 

Repeat 10 times. 

2. The "2-1-8" Exercise: 

With your sax: 

Pick a note on your sax (middle C, or G as a suggestion). 

Inhale for 2 counts. 

Hold your breath for 1 count. 

Exhale (Play) for 8 counts. 

Repeat 10 times. 

3. The "Rib Cage" Exercise: 

Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight. 

Inhale and simultaneously raise both your arms above your head and hold your hands together, for 2 

Hold your breath for 8 counts. 

Exhale slowly and lower your hands to your sides for the length of 4 counts. 

4. The "Floor" Exercise: 

Lie down with your back on the floor. 

Move your legs so that you can raise your hips and buttocks off the floor. 

Inhale for 2 counts. 

Hold for 8 counts. 

Exhale for 4 counts. 


Practice these exercises at least once a day. 

In connection with breathing there is much talk about the using the diaphragm. To set the record straight, the diaphragm is NOT a voluntary muscle. That means you cannot directly or consciously control it. It works without you interfering. That's why you continue to breathe while you're sleeping. You CAN have access to it, by way of the abdominal muscles as you just did in the above exercises. So please, STOP talking about "Diaphragmic Breathing"! It doesn't exist! If you want to be truthful, talk about and do "Abdominal Breathing". 

There a nice side-effect to practicing these breathing patterns. Along side your circulatory system and your respiratory system; you have another system in your body. That is the Lymphatic system. Lymph fluid is responsible for getting impurities out of your body and keeps you healthy. There's one catch; it can only be activated through bodily movement and deep breathing! So, do your exercises and improve your health dramatically at the same time. 

Have fun!

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