Breathing While Playing

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

(...for the instrumentalists out there.)

Mr Ed's Musings No. 3


How do you breathe when you play?

Does your breathing change depending on the technical difficulty of the piece, or emotions involved?

Has breathing "evolved" to support the music making?

Are there fight/flight behaviors involved?

I believe I've experienced the manipulations of my breath born of the older parts of the brain.

Perhaps when playing Chopin, one of the Nocturnes on piano for instance

and I'm right up on a very difficult and gorgeous ornamental line.

Does my breathing get lighter? Do I hold my breath? Sometimes, yes -- I believe the cessation of breath

may give you more oxygen, more concentration in the short term but work against endurance in the longer term...

So may be for a Chopin ornamental line, but not a relentless Bach toccata and fugue, where endurance is truly important?

I was never taught how to breathe in years of piano study.

When in college, I thought about it for the first time.

I was in a prog band with a very good guitarist and when he would approach a tough section, he would audibly breathe -- deeply and in a steady rhythm.

He told me he came to it naturally,

and it just made sense to breathe in a deep and steady manner.

What shall we be teaching our student in terms of

breathing while playing?