Before a singer actually begins to use the voice, the breath is engaged and activated so that the larynx and facial muscles can be used efficiently. Wind players could do the same thing, and get to the work of tone, articulation and fast digits MUCH QUICKER! Those quivering lips and jaw can mean that the breath isn’t being used effectively, and all the other muscles are kicking in to save the music. Try these exercises for a few weeks, gauge your progress, and let me know if it’s helped. It definitely can’t hurt! And you may feel great!
Be prepared to feel awkward and maybe self-conscious doing these exercises. If you want to find success with them then they have to be done regularly. They can help centre you and as you know from yoga, meditation and Pilates routines, just breathing can help your body recover from stress. SO JUST DO IT!
1) Find a balanced stance, feet under your hips, arms by your sides
2) Breathe in for 4 beats and out 4 beats. For one breath keep your knees slightly bent, and for the next, lock them. Do this several times to get used to the feeling of how your lower back releases. Be aware of your knees throughout your warmup and playing sessions.
3) “Trombone Stretch-breath” - Breathe in actively, breathe out and raise both arms to shoulder height, breathe in and raise arms over your head. Stretch to one side, keep breathing in and keep hips level, facing forward. Knees soft. After a few seconds breathe out, lower arms. Repeat on other side. And then repeat again on both sides because it feels good!
4) Stretch arms out at shoulder height, palms facing away with fingers up (like pushing against pillars) and slowly make small circles from shoulders, keeping arms straight. Bend fingers toward the floor, continue circles. Switch circles in opposite direction, fingers down. Then change back to fingers up, same direction.
5) Cross right arm in front to hold left shoulder. Look over right shoulder for stretch. Change to left arm on right shoulder, look over left shoulder. Then switch back to right because we need to compensate for our left-side ‘flute stance’ in practising and performing. This is a good stretch if you become tense in ensemble playing.
6) Now, bend your knees, lean over a shallow squat (think of a rugby scrum). Breathe in, feeling the cold air on the back of the throat. Breathe out like you’re fogging up a window. Start slowly, like a diesel train engine, and gradually speed up the in and out breath. After doing this for 15-30 seconds, roll up slowly with your head coming up last.
7) Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your side. Use your thumb to guide one arm to shoulder height in front of you, move arm to side still shoulder height, face palm to floor, lower arm slowly to side. Repeat on other side.
8) With your flute, cover all the keys, turn headjoint in, covering hole with lips, make either constant fff sound or shsh sound, creating a resistance. Breathe in for 4 beats (roughly mm=60), out for 4. Then in for 4, out for 6, in for 4, out for 8 and continue for as many as you can. Try to increase the length of breaths out.
Tweet any questions to me @latheduck
Visit Lisa Nelsen's website at www.lisanelsen.com