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Breathing Control for Clarinet & Sax

8th June 2020

It seems obvious, right? We all play Wind Instruments, and thus the importance of breath and airflow cannot be underestimated. But, it’s a common issue that comes up with players in-store and from Teachers…We all need to blow MORE!

Check out two videos from our pro-playing friends who discuss and demonstrate some exercises to help you improve your airflow and capacity.

Liz Drew: The Importance of Airflow

We all know that the vibrating column of air produces a sound, but without a changing column of air we have a bland result. We need to modulate our airflow to shape the phrase musically. Imagine releasing a tap more or less to visualise how your air is created.

So, why not start this simple exercise:

  • Start on a simple note such as Middle C
  • Use a metronome set to 60bpm
  • Shape a simple phrase using a crescendo and diminuendo

Think about being secure and flexible in the support of the air, allow the sound to speak. On that one note try and imagine a ‘wiggly’ line representing your air flow. Try and manipulate and manoeuvre that line up and down. This is done by increasing and decreasing the flow of air.

Liz gives the example using study #8 from the ‘Elementary School of Clarinet Playing – by Demnitz’ to show that every phrase needs purpose and shape.

Consider using duplets and triplets to have a natural stress point, this idea can be introduced into your repertoire playing accordingly. Don’t forget that dynamic shaping can live within the specifics on the music, it’s what will bring your music to life!


Simon Bates: Increase Your Capacity

Ever run out of air mid-way through a phrase? Or perhaps struggled to complete a two octave scale from top to bottom without stopping to breathe? In this video Simon Bates shows us a really simple exercise to help you from running out of breath during your playing.

Often Teachers talk about ‘using the diaphragm’, but what does that mean? It’s all about developing your ways of inhaling & exhaling to your full potential and using the full capacity of your lungs. Then regulating the way you distribute the air into your instrument.

So, before you start to play, try this very simple routine:

  • Start in a relaxed and calm state
  • Keep your body flexible and loose
  • Make sure the strap is comfortable
  • Breathe in as you normally would
  • Breathe out, but when you’d normally stop to breathe in, DON’T!
  • Keep breathing out and really clear your lungs
  • When you can’t breathe out anymore, breathe in as much as you can
  • Then, play a simple scale and see how many times you can play it

Do this breathing routine as you practice; before every scale, every piece and even during bars rests. You’ll find before long you are starting to use your diaphragm without even thinking about it!


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Fancy an online lesson with Elizabeth or Simon? Check out their details below to get in touch with them and get some personalised help via online sessions.

Elizabeth Drew – Tuition Info (click here)

Simon Bates – Tuition Info (click here)