Where is the air?

One thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is where I feel the air on the inhale.  As brass players we often hear the words “breath deeply,” and “fill up all the way to your toes.” For the most part, these are great teaching tools, because many students simply do not take in enough air to make the horn resonate fully.  However, in my experience I have found that trying to feel the air too low can create the dreaded delayed attack syndrome.  Essentially this happens when air is inhaled and then held – sometimes for several seconds – before exhaling, resulting in hesitant, tension-filled, and often inaccurate attacks.  There are a number of excellent resources out there for dealing with this problem, including methods by Milan Yancich and Richard Deane.  Both of the aforementioned methods approach the solution through exercises designed to eliminate the “hitch” at the peak of the inhale, creating instead a smooth, seamless transition between inhale and exhale. In addition to those exercises, you can also try shifting your perception of where the air is when you inhale.  Instead of thinking of the air in the back of your throat or lower, imagine the air in the front of your mouth, vibrant, present, and ready to spring into action.  Continue to take the deep, relaxed breaths that horn playing requires, but try to feel the air a bit more forward in the mouth.  Over the past few days I’ve found that this technique is especially helpful for soft, high register attacks.  Physically, the air probably isn’t really doing anything that different, but as anyone who has experienced delayed attacks knows, the issue is often not physical but mental in nature.  By conceptualizing air as being in the front of the mouth (while still inhaling fully), it is easier to eliminate the tendency to hesitate before an attack.

%d bloggers like this: