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    ONLINE LESSONS > Getting Started > Breathing

This Online Lesson is (c) 2000 , Ryan Fraser. All right reserved. NO COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION.

This is not good Breathing Technique!
So, are you an expert breather? Odds are that you are indeed -- after all, if you weren't breathing right now, you probably would have more pressing issues to deal with, rather than learning to play the saxophone! (Or you would at least look an awful lot like the gentleman to your right. . .)

In all seriousness, breathing is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects to playing the saxophone, and often the least understood by most players, amateur or professional. The basis of your sound and your control on the instrument lies with your breathing technique. And breathing, no matter how long you have been working at it is a difficult skill to master.

Stop and think about it for a moment. Can you describe how you breathe? Probably not. For most of us, breathing is not something that we routinely think about and analyse. More importantly, we don't often think of the aspects of our lifestyle often interfere with our ability to breath properly while playing.

Canadian Lung Association / L'Association  Pulmonaire
Canadian Lung Association
L'Association pulmonaire
First and foremost amongs the things which can affect your lungs is smoking. Both first and secondhand smoke are DEADLY! If you are serious about being a saxophonist, now is a great time to quick smoking. It will be hard, but extremely worthwhile. If nothing else, now you can spend that hard-earned money on reeds, instead of cigarettes. We all know the dangers of smoking, but more than anything else, smoking can permanently damage your lung capacity and efficiency. Pardon me if I sound like I'm harping here. I have strong feelings - I've lost too many friends and family to lung cancer and lung disease to look at it any other way. Smoking is an addiction and an illness, but it can be overcome. Help is out there - its up to you to make the decision. The good people at the Canadian Lung Association can help you out.

So how do you breathe?
There are a variety of muscles which help you to breathe. Most of us know about the diaphragm, which is a large, flat muscle which rests underneath the lungs and helps to push air in and out of your lungs. This acts very much like the bellows on a blacksmith's fire - the diaphragm is the "power" behind breathing. If you want to project, you've got to use it!

The second set of muscles which help you to breathe are your inter-costal muscles. These are the muscles between your ribs. Like eating spare ribs? Well, I hate to break it to you, but spare ribs are nothing more than a pig's inter-costal muscles.

So how can you maximize your breathing power?
THIS is good Breathing Technique! (Courtesy of the Canadian Lung Association!)
Pretend that you are a tree. I'm not kidding here. . .imagery is a wonderful teaching tool! Imagine that you are a maple tree in the spring. As the temperature rises, the tree sends its sap from its roots to the branches, in order to cause the buds to grow into leaves. What I want you to do is imagine when you breathe that you are going to breath in air through your toes, and send it up into your lungs, just like a tree sends the sap to the branches.

As I said, imagery is a wonderful thing. . . for most people, this image causes them to automatically breathe using full support from their diaphragm. Most adults are very shallow breathers - we tend to use just our inter-costal muscles to help us breathe. As a result, we breathe quite high up in the chest.

You will find that breathing "like a tree" will help you to have maximum support. There are other ways to help you out. Place a belt snugly around your waist, so that when you inhale, you can feel it press gently against you, much like a weightlifting belt might work. This will remind you to have good support - if you have poor support, the belt will fall off!

    ONLINE LESSONS > Getting Started > Breathing

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