by Mike Oitzman
This is the first in a series of tips about proper breathing.
Breathing is the most important aspect of learning to play the flute. In many ways your breath is the life of the flute. In some traditions it is said that the flute maker removes the heart of the wood from the flute in order to make the flute, and it is up to the flute player to “put the heart of the flute” back in with their breath. I have played the guitar for 25 years now, and never played a woodwind before I discovered the Native American Flute. I have discovered so much more expression in playing the flute than I have ever been able to achieve with the guitar. I would say that this is because of the use of the breath, and the fact that speaking and playing both rely on the breathe for expression. Most of the traditional flute songs were extensions of vocal songs or vocalizations that had been handed down from generation to generation. In this way proper breathe control is the difference between simply playing the flute and really playing the flute.
As with any physical activity, practicing correct breathing is as important as playing the correct notes. Flute playing is a vascular activity, one that requires practice. You’ll notice a difference when you haven’t played for a while and then pick up your flute again.
We are going to concentrate on stomach breathing or breathing from the diaphragm. This is the same technique used in singing.
Correct posture is the first key to breathing properly. To practice the flute, you should be sitting comfortably with both feet flat on the floor. There are three things to think about in your posture: Back, shoulders and arms.
- Your back should be erect but not at “military attention”.
- Relax your shoulders and let them drop. As you (re)learn how to stomach breath, remember not to let your shoulders creep back up.
- Your elbows should be comfortably by your side, hanging from your shoulders.
Copyright 2001 by Mike Oitzman. This playing tip or exercise may not be reproduced in any form, electronic or print without the express written permission of the author.