Much has been written about breath support. There are different concepts and approaches around the topic – some are very concrete, others more obscure. But the one thing all have in common is: as you play the trumpet, you need to have a solid breath support!
Benefits of breath support
In my opinion, there are at least four major benefits when using breath support:
- Better sound – as simple as that. 🙂
- More power – the breath support muscles (e.g. stomach muscles) are much stronger than the lips, so breath support is in fact the foundation of your playing.
- More control – as breath support is an active action you can control it, and not just let something happen passively.
- Improved capacity – when applying breath support, you don’t waste air anymore, and therefore you can play longer phrases.
What is breath support?
Breath support is a natural process that happens regularly in everyday life. It’s sometimes called active exhalation and it means that several muscles are activated to transport the air out of the lungs. You can best observe it on your abdomen.
You automatically support your breath in this way, for example when you laugh, cough, sneeze or when you blow out a candle. So you do not have to learn it from scratch, because your first scream as a baby was already perfectly breath supported. Your task is merely to learn how to use it when playing the trumpet.
How to learn breath support?
Step #1 – become aware of breath support
As a first step, you need to become aware of your breath support. To achieve this, simply press your fingers on the side of your abdomen (see picture #1) and produce a short, loud, sharp „tsss“-sound.
You will notice the muscles working there. Repeat this a couple of times to become aware of the alternation of tension (breath support) and relaxation (inhaling).
Step #2 – preparation
While being aware of this, blow against a sheet of paper (see picture #2) and notice, that the tension in your abdominal muscles is exactly the same, then when producing the „tsss“-sound. If it’s not, simply alternate a couple of times between tsss-sound and blowing against the paper until they are exactly the same.
The paper should be in the same angle from beginning to end. You may also blow rhythms (starting with simple half notes or minims) while the angle of the paper remains the same all the time. Do NOT relax between the notes (unless you take a breath) but train yourself to have a constant breath support.
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Step #3 – etude
Before applying breath support to pieces, you should practise it some time with a daily etude. An example ist this simple etude from H.L. Clarke: Technical Studies for the Cornet:
At first, ONLY in this etude, take notice of your breath support and try to do it the same way you did it first with the tsss-sound and then with the sheet of paper. As soon as you play THIS etude automatically with perfect breath support, you can start using it with other pieces also.
It may take a couple of weeks until you will be able to use breath support all the time. Then you can enjoy the benefits described above. Ideally the breath support will then be activated automatically when you start playing.
Your thoughts and comments…
Now I’d like to hear from you. What’s your concept of breath support? Would you like to share some additional excercises you benefited from with us? Any ideas or questions?
Join the discussion and post your comment below.