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Discussion Starter #1
Here is my recent success in developing my "wind", and another issue that I am completely at a loss to understand:
Success:
I recall Miles saying he boxed because "it develops your wind" and so it seems logical that cardio-type exercise would do so. But walking across a room was about all the exercise I had done over the last ten years or so. Now that I retired and I'm home playing a lot of sax, when my wife pulls the plug on my sax (when she has piano students in) I go walking (fast!) for like 4 or 5 miles, blowing my flute head joint. The results have been fantastic. I'm slurring up and down the overtone series, able to play a solid, steady, nice tone (while walking!), and, best of all, I'm able to control the airstream such that I can hold a nice solid tone for ten seconds or more.
Failure (please help me!):
I, too have a lot of lung capacity, based on spirometry. But I also have mild asthma. The asthma has, however, largely subsided since I started taking a pretty amazing natural nutritional supplement (won't go into that here). By that I mean that I rarely feel that I cannot catch a full breath of air. As recently as three months ago, and going back years, I caught a full breath (that refreshing feeling) about once every ten breaths (!). It has just about done a 180 now. I feel short of breath maybe every tenth breath. My problem is (I've never, ever been able to do this, even now that I am breathing well) I have no idea how one draws in a full breath of air, fast.
A very good and simple example of what I'm talking about:
Klose 25 Daily Exercises. Pick one that is nothing but a page full of 8th or 16th notes. Note that there are many pieces in the common repertoire as full of notes or even more so. Now, how in the heck do someone play that at a decent tempo, and take a breath in between two 8th notes? I'm beginning to think I just have a physical limitation...
I mentioned above that I am now able to really breathe in fully (while just sitting or walking around), with exercise and a nutritional supplement. But, to get that full, refreshing feeling in my lungs, I must be relaxed and inhale at a very, very, controlled rate (which is actually variable, even during the same inhalation), and this requires at least a second; more like two most of the time, or even more if I have exhausted most of the air in my lungs.
Can someone please answer:
a) Is your normal, walking around breathing like that? (Needing a bit of time to inhale fully)
b) Whether it is or not, how were you taught to inhale while playing faster pieces with a ton of notes?
I am at a loss. I hope there are some exercises or written material or something that can help me.
Thanks in advance, folks.
 

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A) yes, everyone breathes like you, the lungs can't fully inflate instantly.

B) It's not meant to inhale a full breath. In the beggining of the piece you breathe in as much as you can and then you start playing. Every signalled bit of breathing in the piece or exercise is meant for you to breathe a bit and restore some of the air you put out, but you can't all of it. So as you keep going you're losing more air until the piece is finished and you can breathe a full breath once more. Why do you think almost all sax players sweat a lot when they play? They are constantly struggling against the air pressure and beeing exhausted from lack of air.

C) You can also learn circular breathing.
 

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For many players it's good to use a mouthpiece and reed combination that doesn't have so much resistance that you use too much wind and energy just to play your notes. High resistance setups is another reason why you see some players sweating. A large chamber or large tip opening for some players takes extra effort as well. I use mouth pieces that can be pushed with more velocity and expression when needed but aren't forcing me to use high velocity just to play my saxophone and run out of breath during long phrases. That way I'm just taking a breath and not gasping for air. Hopefully this can help some players.
 

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Do you breathe from the “abdomen”?

If you don’t, that makes a huge difference.
 

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Well, I can't speak to the workarounds that may be required by someone with asthma (thank goodness). But the conventional wisdom, and I find it works for me, is two-part.

1) Make an effort to "open up" the air path. This is probably more mental than anatomical.
2) Envision your air column as extending from your lips all the way down to the seat of your pants; then imagine dropping the floor of that real fast, like the floor of an elevator, and feeling an expansion in your abdomen. I say "envision" because we all know you don't breathe in your intestinal cavity; but it needs to feel like that.

There is a third thing one can do depending on circumstances. This is that you can shove more air in on top of air that's already there. Even if you just took a breath, you can take another one and add some air although it seemed like the first one was complete. If you were to see me just before a long note on baritone sax you might notice this where I'll draw in the first one "hhhhhhh" and then two or three more little ones on top of that, I think the whole thing would sound kind of like "hhhhhhhhhh"...."hhh-hhh-hh-h" and there's a lot more air in there than if I just stopped with the first one. (The whole thing takes less than half a second.)

Many exercises that appear unplayable with one breath are unplayable with one breath. Take clarinet exercises and transcribe them for tenor sax and there's just no way you can play as long on tenor as on clarinet. You have to do what low winds players have always done - figure out your breathing strategy. This usually involves omitting one note and using the space to grab some air.

One very important point on exercise books - be VERY aware that your body can use a mistake as a chance to breathe! If you repeatedly blow one particular point in an exercise, think about whether you're about to run out of air there. Take an extra breath closer to the trouble spot and see if it's suddenly not a trouble spot. The problem is that your subconscious can VERY quickly train itself, "if I make a fingering mistake here, I can stop and breathe" and so now you are practicing to make a mistake there, stop, and breathe. Let me tell you, your mind-body will learn how to make the most complex mistake in order to stop and rest! "C scale in two octaves? Not sure we can do that; but play an unwanted altissimo Bb/F multiphonic and then follow up with a complex pattern that can't even be notated, so I can stop and rest and breathe? Got that one nailed!!" Basically, the mind-body wants to be bone-idle and will do almost anything to get out of doing what you want it to.
 

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There's circular breathing, something that I've heard only two saxophonists do: Wilton Felder (The Crusaders) and Jorge Alfonso (Irakere, a Cuban jazz band that defected to the U.S. many years ago).

I always thought that circular breathing could be accomplished only by players of small reed instruments, but these guys actually did it. One of the Crusaders' songs that I'm trying to remember was recorded live. Felder and Henderson held one note for about a minute.

This is really no help to the OP, but I thought I'd throw it in here.

Maybe after I have a couple of cups of coffee, I'll be able cite the recordings.
 

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Well, to answer the title. I relax my jaw and throat, open the corners of the embouchure, and 'drop' my gut. I can take in LOTS of air with this simple technique.
Flute, I don't worry about corners. I just suck in air. 😉
 

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There's circular breathing, something that I've heard only two saxophonists do: Wilton Felder (The Crusaders) and Jorge Alfonso (Irakere, a Cuban jazz band that defected to the U.S. many years ago).

I always thought that circular breathing could be accomplished only by players of small reed instruments, but these guys actually did it. One of the Crusaders' songs that I'm trying to remember was recorded live. Felder and Henderson held one note for about a minute.

This is really no help to the OP, but I thought I'd throw it in here.

Maybe after I have a couple of cups of coffee, I'll be able cite the recordings.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk could maintain circular breathing on three saxes at once. Bobby Watson plays killer screaming bebop lines for minutes at a time while circular breathing. Harry Carney used circular breathing on the baritone sax. Jimmy Hamilton was another master. If I think a while I can probably come up with some more.
 

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It has been said many times before: you don't need lotsa air to play. I remember a young woman of a very slight built playing effortlessly the trumpet in the US Coast Guard brass quartet concert at Carnegie Hall. She sipped air like a bird and there was not much room in her anyway. Did I mention her playing was exquisite?

Can one gulp the air faster? Now, that's a fair question. My two cents: diaphragm is fast, rib cage is slow. Keep the upper lungs dilated by heaving your rib cage once, at the onset of a lengthy passage. During the passage, breathe purely by diaphragm.
 

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Stelian- My teacher and I were just talking about lung capacity and breathing, male vs. female. Apparently, the volume of adult female lungs is typically 10-12% smaller than that of males who have the same height and age. ... The results suggest a disproportionate growth of the rib cage in females relative to the lung, which would be well suited to accommodate large abdominal volume displacements as in pregnancy. It is interesting to consider how this might possibly make breathing a more challenging issue for women players.
 

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I think of it as 'getting a full tank' of air. I suck in as quickly as I can for whatever length of time I have to do so, simultaneously sticking my belly out. My chest doesn't expand at all. However much air I'm able to take in, that's what I have to work with. It works most of the time.
 

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The answer to taking a quick breath has been given several times in this thread now, but here's the essence of it:

Use your abdomen. Shove that muscle down by pushing your stomach out. The air will automatically be sucked into your lungs. This is not complicated or difficult once you develop the habit of abdominal breathing (don't know if that's a proper term or not, but I'll leave it there).
 

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The answer to taking a quick breath has been given several times in this thread now, but here's the essence of it:

Use your abdomen. Shove that muscle down by pushing your stomach out. The air will automatically be sucked into your lungs. This is not complicated or difficult once you develop the habit of abdominal breathing (don't know if that's a proper term or not, but I'll leave it there).
Thanks, John, for taking the time to spell it out.

If one wants to explore taking a truly quick breath, learn the exercise in the Kundalini Yoga tradition called "Breath of Fire".
 

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There is a lot of misinformation with breathing and arguments always start over this stuff, so a few simple thoughts.......

Go with the physiology- read and learn. We’ve all been breathing since the day we were born, no need to learn to do it again or differently.
Most problems are from tension and inefficiencies learnt throughout life.
It’s the quality of your inhale and exhale that counts, not lung capacity.
Arnold Jacobs played the tuba with one lung.
Read this https://eastop.net/classical-hornplaying/some-ins-and-outs-of-breathing/
 

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For years I struggled with this very thing. One thing I discovered is trying to "inhale the room" for me causes excess tension and makes my chops tired FASTER. These days I concentrate on simply releasing the abdominal muscles to allow them to expand, taking an ADEQUATE breath for the phrase, and then controlling the flow of air through the horn. This, for me, improves my tone, control, and endurance, as I'm not physically exerting myself so much through the entire process.....
 

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It is impossible to play a full page of 16th notes on one breath. It is also completely unnecessary, as turf3 said. You'll never encounter that on an actual performance unless you're playing some crazy Philip Glass arrangement. For your practice material, just play and breath normally, and skip a few notes when you take a breath or learn circular breathing.

If you're feeling short of breath, you may not be getting enough oxygen. This could be because you aren't emptying your lungs enough before taking another breath. I have this problem on soprano and clarinet when I play long passages because they take so little air. My oxygen is used up before I've emptied my lungs playing. In this case I just let a little extra air out the corners of my mouth while I play.
 

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My teach says slow and long abdominal breathing will help create quick abdominal breathing. Practing through the nose off the horn all day, it's yoga practice thing.
 

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If you're feeling short of breath, you may not be getting enough oxygen.
The physiological trigger for this sensation is CO2 buildup - not lack of oxygen. But yes, you are correct regarding emptying your lungs sufficiently to sweep out the carbon dioxide.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
There's circular breathing, something that I've heard only two saxophonists do: Wilton Felder (The Crusaders) and Jorge Alfonso (Irakere, a Cuban jazz band that defected to the U.S. many years ago).

I always thought that circular breathing could be accomplished only by players of small reed instruments, but these guys actually did it. One of the Crusaders' songs that I'm trying to remember was recorded live. Felder and Henderson held one note for about a minute.

This is really no help to the OP, but I thought I'd throw it in here.

Maybe after I have a couple of cups of coffee, I'll be able cite the recordings.
George Coleman used circular breathing and it was not just for a novelty effect (which I've seen a number of players do).
Yeah I know I can try to learn that, and I may... I gotta determine where I get the most bang for the buck with my practice time (ain't getting any younger!). I have to apply the 80/20 rule.
 
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