Flute/breath control

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Question
I am working on my embouchure and am able to make sound good, strong sounds.  As I play, my major challenge is breath control, or being able to sustain a breath well enough to play a passage. I am trying to "economize" my "air" so as not to have it escape, but to make it count.  Often, I take a big, deep breath, then it's gone (and I am huffing) after about two measures.  I have played clarinet and recorder for many years and am used to the mouthpiece/reed regulating the air flow.  Thanks, Joel

Answer
Hi, Joel!
It takes practice to make that big, deep breath last for an entire phrase, or at least until there is an appropriate place to grab that next breath.  When my students begin their first lessons, they usually breathe after every note.  Then it's 4 beats.  Then, it's 2 measures, then 3, then 4.  

There was an old, old method book that I still use with some students.  It is called "Breeze Easy Method."  Just the thought of that title will give you a hint of how to reach your goal.  It is easier to learn the lower, then middle octaves, on flute as a beginner.  Think "Breeze Easy," as you play.  With practice, you can make that breath last.  Then, even as you break into the upper octave(s)you will be able to work into enough breath for proper phrasing.

So, why all the fuss about how long one can hold their breath before it runs out?  Well, musical phrasing is like speaking, in a way.  If you run (huff) out of breath in the middle of the (inhale)......sentence.... well, you see what I mean.  To really get an understanding of proper phrasing, you might play a song with a simple melody.  Breathe where it makes sense with the words.  For example...

"Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.(breathe)"
"Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.  (breathe)"

DEFINITELY DO NOT BREATHE AFTER THE WORD "LITTLE" AT ANY TIME DURING THAT SONG!  It would not make sense.  And so it goes with any music.  Even if there are no words, you can learn to hear proper musical phrasing, the same way you know when to breathe when you are speaking.

In conclusion, my suggestion for you, is that you work on a one or two line exercise, with lower and middle range notes, and try to only breathe after 2 measures.  Then try to hold for 3.  Then for 4.  More if you can swing it.  Good luck, Joel, and I wish you better and better music.  Enjoy that flute, sir.

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Denise J. Sipe

Expertise

These are the topics I CAN answer... How to play, from beginner to professional. Tips and tricks, breathing, auxilliary fingering techniques Tone Quality Listening--Developing your ears Technique --Bringing the notes up and off of the page, and making them "your own music". Playing solo, small groups, bands, orchestras Digitally reproduced, vs live accompaniment Accompanying vocalists, dancers, other instrumentals.

Experience

Soloist, small groups, large marching bands, symphony orchestras, stage bands and orchestras, theater, church music, jazz, classical, folk music

Organizations
I'm independent. But professionals have often hired me to play in their groups. Giving back to the community where I played in the High School Band, I am a former member of Williamsport, MD Community Band, a current member of New Horizons Band in Hagerstown, MD, and Bass Flute Player for the TOOT UNCOMMON FLUTES flute choir of Williamsport, MD. I often perform solo as "Toot Uncommon" and had a web-based business where I sold flutes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The show is uncommon. The locations are often uncommon. And the variety of musical instruments is definitely uncommon! I am a member of NFA, the National Flute Association.

Publications
I didn't write for any publications. I leave that up to the more elite musicians.

Education/Credentials
This should have been my career. I am an engineer,and a trained professional clown. But my music is my passion. Flute is my favorite, though I also play many woodwinds and some brass. I am currently playing percussion in a volunteer concert band, and have drum corps experience, where I often played marching bass drum. I am totally self-taught. But I have often played in groups made up mostly of professionals. All in all I am still the area's best-kept secret.

Awards and Honors
Biggest honor of my career was playing an emotional piece, and looking out over the audience. Two big, tough construction workers had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Past/Present Clients
I've been teaching beginning and intermediate flute/piccolo students of all ages in MD and PA since the early 1970s.

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