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Breathing Exercises for Saxophonists

Breathing Exercises for Saxophonists

A lot of musicians, particularly wind instrumentalists, are too often unaware to the issue of generating sufficient energy or power to aid proper fundamental performance technique. Although we may practice our instrument regularly, there are many aspects of performance that will not be accomplished until we start to develop other exercises in conjunction with our regular practice regiment.

Absolute mastery of breath control and airstream focus is essential to achieving a greater level of performance ability. Learning the right breathing and breath control techniques contributes to the following areas:

Quality of the tone – the regular practice of breath support and air flow management will improve your tone quality and add significantly to the overall tonal colour of the ensemble.

Sustaining the pitch – inexperienced and younger musicians find it not easy to sustain pitches for long periods of time with good tone and firm pitch. These exercises, practiced regularly, will help to alleviate these problems.

Intonation stability – most musicians experience problems with stable intonation in extreme registers of the saxophone and pitch fluctuation of the middle registers is also common among less-experienced musicians. A well developed embouchure with a focused airstream will yield, in most instances, better tone quality and stable pitch.

Volume – a developed embouchure and proper breath support will allow sax players to play at louder volumes without distortion and this will enable the player to maintain a more focused sound at soft volumes as well when subtleness is needed.

Flexibility – “Playing on the airstream” is a common phrase used by many musicians. The term flexibility refers to the ease of playing over the entire range of the instruments, including shifts between octaves. These quick shifts in register will be accomplished with greater ease if we refer to the analogy of playing on the airstream. One must low through the large interval leaps!

Now let’s examine some exercises that will help you accomplish your goal. These exercises can also be tailored to fit personal goals and time frame.

Preparing for breathing exercises

  • Maintain a steady upwards posture – sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor with your back straight and chin up.
  • Relax your neck muscles, chest, and abdomen. Ensure that these areas are allowed to fully expand and contract without opposing force.
  • Let your palms lie flat on your legs
  • Relax and close your eyes – ensure that you concentrate on your breathing. *Note – you must be ‘in-harmony’ with your breathing habits before you can change your method of breathing

 

(Slow tempo, Quarter = 50) – The breathing warm-up

  • Exhale and breathe in for 2 counts. Ensure that you are full of air after 2 counts *Note – Always breathe through the mouth and not the nose.
  • Now blow out immediately for 4 counts using a (Snake like) “S”. Exhale with your diaphragm muscle by count 4.
  • We recommend that you repeat exercise the same exercise a minimum of 6 times.

(Medium-Easy, Quarter = 72) – The breathing exercise

  • Exhale fully (Empty all air before you begin)
  • Breathe in through the mouth for 2 counts. Ensure you are filled up totally.
  • Now exhale for 6 counts using an “S” sound (Similar to the Snake sound). Ensure that you push all air out on exhale.
  • We recommend that you repeat the same exercise a minimum of 5 times.

(Quarter = 72, Suggested) – Expanding the air capacity

  • Exhale fully (Empty all air before you begin)
  • Now breathe in for 8 counts through the mouth. Ensure you are filled up totally.
  • Hold breath for two 2 counts
  • Now sip a SHARP breath for one 1 count.
  • Hold at one 1 count.
  • Sip a SHARP breath for one (1) count.
  • Hold one 1 count.
  • Sip a SHARP breath for one (1) count.
  • Hold at one 1 count.
  • Now exhale for eight 8 counts and rest. R
  • We recommend that you repeat the same exercise a minimum of two 3 times

(Quarter = 112) – Breathing Bag technique (use a large bread bag)

Using a breathing bag helps normalize the amount of air inhaled and exhaled. Note* – Please be aware that the continuous inhalation of CO2 from the bag can make you light-headed. We advice that you take some fresh air If you start feeling dizzy

  • Exhale fully (Empty all air before you begin)
  • Now breathe in for 4 counts through the mouth and fill up totally. DO NOT USE THE BAG.
  • Exhale for 4 counts in the bag. Ensure that you regulate the air so the bag is full on count 4.
  • Inhale for four using the air in the bag. Completely deflate the bag by count 4.
  • Exhale for 4 counts in the bag. Ensure that you regulate the air so the bag is full on count 4.
  • We recommend that you repeat this exercise a minimum of two (2) times.

*Please be aware of your natural limits. If inhaling and exhaling to your maximum capacity causes pain in your lungs, we advice that you stop these exercises.