Day 1 - Breathing

Day 1 of our new regime to be better learners begins today! 

Today is the most predictable topic to deal with first up. Its the most important aspect of brass playing, its actually the most important aspect of living - breathing. 

Air is so important to brass players, but it is also the number 1 neglected facet of our practice, performance and development. The best part about air exercises is they don't take long - and you can do them anywhere! All you need is a set of lungs and good attitude - so once you have checked those boxes, we can get started. 

First up - its important to think about air for a brass player the same way you think about petrol for a car. It doesn't work without it, but also if you put the wrong type of fuel in, the car will conk out. So, we need to have a philosophy about breathing, its all encompassing, and this should be the one thing that you constantly think about when you pick up your instrument. 

So, to start lets get our head in the right place. Sit down, don't look at your instrument yet, its not important yet. Find a good space and just get into a comfortable seated position. Sit nice and upright, without using the chair to hold you up. Relax all your muscles in your upper body, especially your shoulders and chest. Now take a good breath in, focussing on a nice dark sound of the air passing your lips - remember this sound, and always try to make it sound relaxed and consistent. 

Breathe in without lifting your shoulders, without puffing your chest out (the chest will naturally fill up last) and without lifting your chin up. The key is not to look like you are taking your last breath, stay relaxed and calm - focus on the air filling up your diaphragm. Do this for a whole minute, in and out with positive air. Try and concentrate on the quality of air you are breathing in, ie don't just take a normal breath, but focus on the speed, the sound of the air - its almost like meditating.

Once the minute is over - you can do a few upper body stretches - making sure you are warming up the muscles in your upper body as we do this process. 

Next - we are going to put the metronome on at crotchet = 60 beats per minute. You can leave it running once you have it on. 

Empty your tank of air, and then: 

Breath in over 4 beats, and out over 4 beats. 

In over 3 beats, out over 3 beats. 

In over 2 beats, out over 2 beats. 

In over 1 beat, out of 1 beat.

In over 2 beats, out over 2 beats. 

In over 3 beats, out over 3 beats.

In over 4 beats, out over 4 beats. 

Repeat this exercise - but stop if you feel dizzy. Ideally you should be able to do this exercise 3 times through. 

Next, with metronome still running. 

Empty your tank of air, and then: 

In over 6 beats, out over 6 beats. 

In over 5 beats, out over 6 beats. 

In over 4 beats, out over 6 beats. 

In over 3 beats, out over 6 beats. 

In over 2 beats, out over 6 beats. 

In over 1 beats, out over 6 beats - and try and repeat this 4 or 5 times (stopping if you feel dizzy).

Last exercise. 

Set your metronome to Quaver = 100

Start with a full tank of air, and then begin by letting out 1/7th of your air at a time over 7 quavers. 

On the 8th quaver, fill your tank back up. 

Repeat this 6 times (stopping if you feel dizzy). 

These a very basic beginner breathing exercises - you can do your own research and find more - the key to this part of your practice is to try and spend a minimum of 5 minutes (aim for 10 minutes) doing breathing exercises every day - thats right EVERYDAY!!!

I try and go to the gym early in the morning before I have to be at orchestra rehearsal, that is a great way for me to get my diaphragm muscles active, and my air moving. When I get to the hall, I still do the breathing exercises to make sure everything is working. 

Some resources and links that might be of use to you:

The Breathing Gym

The Breathing Gym

The Breathing Gym - Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan - 

You can purchase this at -

Here is a youtube link to what they get up to -

Kristian Steenstrup - Play with a Pro

Kristian Steenstrup - Play with a Pro

Kristian Steenstrup - Guru Trumpet Teacher - you can sign up (and pay) for his breathing classes on Play with a Pro - its wonderful resource and he is an incredible teacher, especially when it comes to breathing - for all brass players.

The most important accessory!

The most important accessory!

Breathing Bag - an absolute must have - you can purchase in NZ @

Song and Wind - Arnold Jacobs

Song and Wind - Arnold Jacobs

Song and Wind by Arnold Jacobs - a wonderful book about the human body and brass players. Arnold Jacobs was the Tubist of the Chicago Symphony, and this is a must read for all brass players. 

Available @

So this is a start to breathing, its the most important thing we do as a brass player, so lets not neglect it any longer. Time to change our regime and make it part of our everyday practice. You can find more exercises, even make up your own ones! 

Message me if you have questions or queries at

See you tomorrow for Blog 2 on Buzzing!