February 03, 2009

Lung-popping fun!!!

WARNING: This post contains a description of a breathing exercise that you should not try, especially if you have fragile lungs or a lung condition or a history of lung problems. You especially shouldn't try it if you have only one lung.  But... if you are going to try it, you might pass out, so make sure you have someone watching you at least. I take no responsibility for how freakish the exercise feels if you do it correctly or for anything that happens to you as a result of you trying something that I've clearly told you not to try even if I have, for some odd reason, outlined the instructions for the thing that I'm telling you not to try.

This morning, I had the good fortune to attend a trumpet workshop with Guy Few. Guy is in Whitehorse with Bellows and Brass as part of the Whitehorse Concert Series. I've attended a few trumpet workshops before and they usually consist of the trumpeter showing off how good he is (or trying to, anyway).   Not so with Guy. He was personable and entertaining and was able to share a lot of valuable information in a short amount of time. He really knows his stuff and is good at teaching it.

Image used without first requesting permission from
Guy Few

One of the most important things a brass player needs to master is breathing.

"Ah! I figured out how to breathe the moment I was born!" I can hear some of you say.

Well, there's breathing and then there's proper breathing. Many people are chest breathers. When you watch a chest-breather breathe, their chest expands and contracts. For a good, rich sound, though, a brass player needs to blow, not from the chest, but from the diaphragm.  You can tell when someone is breathing from the diaphragm because their stomach moves in and out, as opposed to their chest. If you're not breathing with your diaphragm, you're not using the full potential of your lung capacity. (If you're chest breather, try it and you'll find that you feel more relaxed and clear-headed thanks to the extra oxygen your body is getting.)

The diaphragm separates your intestines from your lungs. Guy described it as something like a thin, rubbery sheet of plastic. He showed us an exercise that demonstrates the interaction between the lungs and diaphragm and the importance of the diaphragm.  

Want to know what it feels like to have your diaphragm stretched upwards and then snapped back down into place? Want to know what it feels like to have your lungs sucked inwards? Well too bad for you, because I already told you in the "Warning" at the top of this entry that you shouldn't try this. But if you are going to try it (under the close supervision of a strong friend in case you pass out), here's how to do it.
  1. Stand up straight.  Relax your shoulders.
  2. Making sure to breathe in using your diaphragm (you should feel your stomach expanding), take a deep breath.
  3. Exhale as you bend over (as though you were going to touch your toes).  Make sure you exhale every last bit of air that you can.
  4. Hold your breath.
  5. Making sure to not breathe in, rise slowly (still holding your breath) until you're standing upright, like you were in Step 1.
  6. Relax and allow the air to fill your lungs.
If you did it right, your lungs will pop back open.  

If you did it right, you'll suddenly realize how much your breathing is affected by your diaphragm.

If you did it right, you'll think, "Woah, that felt weird."

But I already told you that you shouldn't do it, right?


Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Is there anything you don't do??

I guess I'll have ask Fawn that question:)

Thanks for the breathing lessons!

Meandering Michael said...

I'm not very good at putting away the clean laundry.

Anonymous said...

I played trumpet quite a bit growing up and still do (though not nearly as often as I'd like to now) so I'm very interested in trying this if I wasn't a little under the weather at the moment.

Meandering Michael said...

Trumpets and jigging music don't exactly go together, do they? Hmmm... you might be able to do some neat things with throat singing, though!