We all know how to breathe; it’s the very first thing and the very last thing we do! Advanced control of the air is the single most crucial element of high-level brass performance. Here are a few exercises to help you develop an ability you were born with.
Exercise #1: To Experience a Full Breath
With your feet spread apart, bend over at the waist and hang your arms down in front of you. While inhaling, slowly straighten up and bring your hands over your head. Your shoulders should be back, and your chest up. Slowly exhale while returning to the starting position.
Exercise #2: To Expand Your Air Capacity
Take a full breath and hold. Bend slightly to the left and then to the right; each time sniff in a little more air. Exhale. Repeat, but bend forwards and backwards this time. Eventually combine into one continuous breath, bending in each direction to find a little more space to put air. You may feel a slight ache in normally unused breathing muscles. This makes you aware of additional muscles that can be developed.
Exercise #3: To Expand Your Air Capacity
While walking: breathe in for five steps, hold for five steps, and breathe out for five steps. Pace your exhalation and inhalation to completely fill and empty your lungs during the five steps. Gradually increase the number of steps.
Exercise #4: To Focus Your Air Column
Form a large ‘C’ with your hand. Hold it out about twelve inches from your formed embouchure. Shape and direct your air column to send the air through the opening without hitting your hand.
Exercise #5: Blowing Exercise With No Resistance
Tape a piece of paper hanging down from the bottom of a music stand. From a couple of feet away try to bend it back with your breath and hold it there. Try blowing through the ‘C’ formation as in Exercise #7, using your hand to direct the airstream.
Exercise #6: Blowing Exercise With Resistance
Blow through a small straw. Strive to increase the duration of your exhalation.