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Over breathing problem

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
Hi: I've got a growing problem with what I believe is called over-breathing. I feel I need to take a breath and do, then get to the stage where I'm uncomfortable, like I'm about to burst and have to stop in the middle of playing, not clever with an exam coming up in a few weeks time. I've tried carrying on without taking a breath to see if I can get rid of excess air but that doesn't work. I can't hold a note as long as I used to either. I thought I might have an infection so went to my doctor but there's no physical problem.
My teacher doesn't think it's a 'capacity' problem and we've tried some different techniques to no avail.
This problem is worse during harder pieces so it may be partly psychological but I'd welcome any suggestions that might help - breathing exercises or whatever.
Thanks.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
One of the reasons for this might be that you are taking too much air in and need to exhale half way through to expel what is then stale air. It would be useful to mark any piece of music with a small tick indicating where a breath would normally need to take place and adapt your breathing to suit. Certainlywhen playing a "harder" piece you are likely to take a deeper breath and have more unused air to exhale, which takes longer, and can affect your natural rhythm of breathing.

I suggest maybe focussing on two written tunes and mark both with points where a breath should be taken and focus on that for a few minutes each day. Most piece will have a natural rhythm to them, as wind and brass players are expected to be able to breath during play.

Hope this helps. You may be surprised how little breath you need to get through various phrases, and ideally only have a very small amount of air left when yopu exhale, such that it is no big deal.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Instead of just breathing in, breath out before taking in more air. It's a common problem with the woodwins, especially those that use no air - like bassoons, oboes. And breath more often.
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Tricky one - it sounds like you're doing the right things, and Tom's advice is good. Kev's right in that you should make sure you've exhaled before you start, but there's not always time to exhale/inhale mid-tune.
Have a little session with your teacher on breathing without the sax. I've seen differing approaches to this but basically you shouldn't need to 'suck' to inhale, it's more a relaxation of your abdominal muscles that drops your diaphragm and allows air in, think baby crying when you're breathing! This takes a bit of practice but it's due to our upright lives that we end up tensing our bodies when we should be relaxing..!

Good luck with it!

Nick
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
One of the reasons for this might be that you are taking too much air in and need to exhale half way through to expel what is then stale air. It would be useful to mark any piece of music with a small tick indicating where a breath would normally need to take place and adapt your breathing to suit. Certainlywhen playing a "harder" piece you are likely to take a deeper breath and have more unused air to exhale, which takes longer, and can affect your natural rhythm of breathing.

I suggest maybe focussing on two written tunes and mark both with points where a breath should be taken and focus on that for a few minutes each day. Most piece will have a natural rhythm to them, as wind and brass players are expected to be able to breath during play.

Hope this helps. You may be surprised how little breath you need to get through various phrases, and ideally only have a very small amount of air left when yopu exhale, such that it is no big deal.
Tom, thanks for the prompt reply and advice. I've already marked the pieces in question at the points where I want to breathe and I try to stick to them. One of my exam pieces is Aria by Eugene Bozza and correct breathing is essential. Even though I've been playing it for a while, it seems to be getting more demanding from a physical standpoint. I just don't understand it. Anxiety maybe?

I will try taking in less air and see if that helps.
Thanks for the suggestions.
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
Instead of just breathing in, breath out before taking in more air. It's a common problem with the woodwins, especially those that use no air - like bassoons, oboes. And breath more often.
Kev, thanks. For most of the way through the pieces in question, I don't have the luxury of time to breathe out and back in although that comes in very handy at certain points.
Glad to hear it's not uncommon and I am not alone!
Thanks for the advice. Appreciated.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
I'd never had this problem until recently when I, too, started preparing an exam piece. This was a slow, legato 3/4 piece that had dotted minims, dotted crotchets, interspersed with triplet quavers. Apart from the intro and a bar's fill with the piano accompaniment in the middle, there was no obvious place to breathe and over-inhaling seemed to get worse when playing it right through standing up.

Tom's analysis is right. I worked with my teacher and accompanist to try not to take in too much at the beginning and middle and to find a few points to mark for a very quick breath at the end of phrases. I'd pretty well cracked it by the exam and even though I was beginning to struggle a little by the last two dotted minims I hope the examiner heard it as light vibrato rather than oxygen-starvation shakes!
YC
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
ps It's a problem for untrained pop singers too. Cliff Richard has suffered with it and it's very obvious on some of his records.
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
Tricky one - it sounds like you're doing the right things, and Tom's advice is good. Kev's right in that you should make sure you've exhaled before you start, but there's not always time to exhale/inhale mid-tune.
Have a little session with your teacher on breathing without the sax. I've seen differing approaches to this but basically you shouldn't need to 'suck' to inhale, it's more a relaxation of your abdominal muscles that drops your diaphragm and allows air in, think baby crying when you're breathing! This takes a bit of practice but it's due to our upright lives that we end up tensing our bodies when we should be relaxing..!

Good luck with it!

Nick
Nick, had a nice reply to you written out - got caught up in work and lost it all when I timed-out! Anyway, thanks for the advice [as with the other guys]. I think you might have something with the suck/relax comparison as I'm sure I do a bit of the former although my teacher hasn't spotted any bad technique and we've spent some time on this. I am trying to relax when playing, it might be combination of 'sucking in' and general anxiety about the difficulty of the pieces and the exam looming. Maybe a combination of the physiological and the psychological?
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
I'd never had this problem until recently when I, too, started preparing an exam piece. This was a slow, legato 3/4 piece that had dotted minims, dotted crotchets, interspersed with triplet quavers. Apart from the intro and a bar's fill with the piano accompaniment in the middle, there was no obvious place to breathe and over-inhaling seemed to get worse when playing it right through standing up.

Tom's analysis is right. I worked with my teacher and accompanist to try not to take in too much at the beginning and middle and to find a few points to mark for a very quick breath at the end of phrases. I'd pretty well cracked it by the exam and even though I was beginning to struggle a little by the last two dotted minims I hope the examiner heard it as light vibrato rather than oxygen-starvation shakes!
YC
Cheers Col, as I mentioned before, it's comforting to know I am not the only one. I will be trying out some of the tips from you and the others straight away. Out of interest, what was the piece you struggled with and did you pass?
SN
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
SN
It was Gabriel Faure's Apres un Reve. It's a James Rae arrangement for sax for Grade 5. Beautiful piece, even if it's not what I normally play (jazzy, standards stuff). There's a nice cello version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8Emm7fXqAg that will give you a good idea of the sustained legato phrasing.

I had no intention (and no real need) to take exams when I returned to playing music a few years ago, and even though I play in a sax ensemble where we have some tricky numbers, my teacher sort of talked me into doing exams starting in at Grade 5 as something to aim at. I've got the bug now and want to go the rest of the way! Still waiting for the result as it was earlier this week.
Good luck.
YC
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
SN
It was Gabriel Faure's Apres un Reve. It's a James Rae arrangement for sax for Grade 5. Beautiful piece, even if it's not what I normally play (jazzy, standards stuff). There's a nice cello version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8Emm7fXqAg that will give you a good idea of the sustained legato phrasing.

I had no intention (and no real need) to take exams when I returned to playing music a few years ago, and even though I play in a sax ensemble where we have some tricky numbers, my teacher sort of talked me into doing exams starting in at Grade 5 as something to aim at. I've got the bug now and want to go the rest of the way! Still waiting for the result as it was earlier this week.
Good luck.
YC
Best of luck with the exam results, it's a great piece. I did Spanish Love Song for Grade 5, I think it's a lot easier than the Faure! Here's a YouTube link to the piece I'm having most trouble with.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj9-tOBvSmE&feature=related
Although the music is pretty straightforward, I find it hard to play at this pace and not over-breathe ....... hence the problem [and hence the reason it's a Grade 7 piece I guess?].

I appreciate the advice I been given by you and the other members out there and even with a little experimentation on what's been suggested, I'm beginning to feel I may be trying to take in too much air every time when a 'sip' may be more appropriate in some places. I'll keep experimenting.
Cheers
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Thanks. It's the same kind of piece isn't it. Very nice. Mostly long sustained slow phrases. There sounds as though there's more space for breaths, but may be the bloke in the vid has just got it sorted! I think you're right - it's rationing how much you take in each time.

I looked at Spanish Love Song too. I agree - it is easier than the Foure, but can't recall now why I decided against it!
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,667
The need to breathe signal is generated by a the CO2 level in your lungs reaching the trigger point. If one is not breathing deeply and exhaling completely that can result in the residual air in your lungs having a high CO2 content.

Anxiety on top of incomplete respiration ...... Hmmmm.... It is possibly using mind control, to overcome the need to breathe to a fair degree. Just ask any RN clearance diver or SBS type, they will have lots of tricks on that side.
 

SaxNut

New Member
Messages
7
The need to breathe signal is generated by a the CO2 level in your lungs reaching the trigger point. If one is not breathing deeply and exhaling completely that can result in the residual air in your lungs having a high CO2 content.

Anxiety on top of incomplete respiration ...... Hmmmm.... It is possibly using mind control, to overcome the need to breathe to a fair degree. Just ask any RN clearance diver or SBS type, they will have lots of tricks on that side.
Hi Jazzaferri, thanks for the comment. Do you think breathing exercises would help? I've been playing for about 7/8 years now and not had this problem before.
SN
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,953
I can understand your problems with the Aria. I did it as an audition piece many years ago without bothering to practise it much (the audition was a formality). I was practically blue by the end of it. You absolutely have to plan your breathing and stick to it rigidly.

Always bear in mind that what works in the practice room does not always work in performance. Everything tightens up and you find you haven't planned enough breathing spaces.
 
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Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,667
If in breathing exercise you mean developing diaphragm strength, while excellent for breath support you will still need to be able to clear your lungs with a berth or two in order to not experience the discomfort.

If you mean aerobic exercise that improves lung function yes that will help immensely. When I was at my peak, through scuba diving, running and other stuff I could hold my breath for two minutes. The better trained your body is in aerobic function the easier it is to ignore the signal. I can still support a note til there is no air left to blow and hold off breathing in for 20-30 seconds without too much discomfort. Not that I do that while playing, just illustrating.
 
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