Learning how to use the diaphragm properly?

David James (if it's the ex RPO principle trombone you're talking about) is an un-sung master of the instrument. I've never heard anyone (including LSO players) project the enormous sound that he did. To do that you do need plenty of air/diaphragm.
 

iggmeister

Member
This topic is a bit of a Holy Grail for a lot of players. I think it is a bit like the Orange mobile phone adverts on TV at the moment. You have to learn about all the muscles surrounding the lungs which operate to make us breathe and get to feel how they work. Then, forget about it all.

Once you are aware of what is going on the last thing you should do is keep thinking about it. Essentially you have to learn to breathe in properly and sit with a good posture and then you tend to do it naturally from then on.

If you get the breathing sorted out it is a bit like riding a bike, you never forget how. Problem is getting there in the first place. Best example I was told was to gently cough repeatedly for about 5 seconds. When doing so concentrate on what your muscles are doing, especially the ones you can feel lowest down. Then try to breathe in and out gently, (not cough), and try to feel the same muscles. Gradually you can learn to feel it.

After a while you start to breathe like that naturally. That is the time to forget about it.

Another good one is to lie down flat on your back and breathe in a little bit and then hold it. Raise your feet about 2" off the ground and feel what muscles are getting pulled in your abdomen. Dont do that one for too long though cos it hurts!

Too a certain extent it is all rubbish. You look at the likes of Dizzy Gillespie. He used to inflate his cheeks, (said to be the wrong thing to do), and often played with his hed tilted to one side, (not correct posture). I also heard once that to hit the high notes he simply squeezed his arse cheeks harder! Diaphragm? What diaphragm!

Hope this helps

Igg

PS I dont profess to be an expert on this subject but the above is what I was taught and what I do and it seems to help me.
 
HI Iggy, a few points

iggmeister said:
This topic is a bit of a Holy Grail for a lot of players. I think it is a bit like the Orange mobile phone adverts on TV at the moment. You have to learn about all the muscles surrounding the lungs which operate to make us breathe and get to feel how they work. Then, forget about it all.


Once you are aware of what is going on the last thing you should do is keep thinking about it. .
I don't agree, if you don't think about it you become lazy and don't do it. Rather keep reminding yourself (a constant check up if you like) to make sure that everything is still OK.

iggmeister said:
Essentially you have to learn to breathe in properly and sit with a good posture and then you tend to do it naturally from then on..
Granted this may happen to some extent but bad habbits die hard . . . .

iggmeister said:
If you get the breathing sorted out it is a bit like riding a bike, you never forget how. .
You don't forget how, but you do forget to do it!
iggmeister said:
Problem is getting there in the first place. Best example I was told was to gently cough repeatedly for about 5 seconds. When doing so concentrate on what your muscles are doing, especially the ones you can feel lowest down. Then try to breathe in and out gently, (not cough), and try to feel the same muscles. Gradually you can learn to feel it.

After a while you start to breathe like that naturally. That is the time to forget about it..

No you need to keep your concentration going.

iggmeister said:
Another good one is to lie down flat on your back and breathe in a little bit and then hold it. Raise your feet about 2" off the ground and feel what muscles are getting pulled in your abdomen. Dont do that one for too long though cos it hurts!

Too a certain extent it is all rubbish. You look at the likes of Dizzy Gillespie. He used to inflate his cheeks, (said to be the wrong thing to do), and often played with his hed tilted to one side, (not correct posture). I also heard once that to hit the high notes he simply squeezed his a**e cheeks harder! Diaphragm? What diaphragm!.
Not sure I would use Dizzy as a good example :? You are correct to point out that people make thier technique work for them in different ways. It's just that the MAJORITY use a technique which involves thinking about how the diaphragm works.

iggmeister said:
Hope this helps

Igg

PS I dont profess to be an expert on this subject but the above is what I was taught and what I do and it seems to help me.
 
Diaphram Use....

The fact that you are alive and breathing indicates that you are using your diaphram already!!

I could quote lots from Claude Gordons book "Brass Playing is no harder that deep breathing", instead I recommend buying the book (£9.95) from June Emersons.
 
Diaphram etc

I'm not sure that diaphram usage can have more or less "potential"...

As I said, get yourself a copy of the book which explains quite a lot. It also includes a medical case study, i.e. a doctor who was also a trumpet player wanted to see if the diaphram of a professional trumpet player was any different from an amateur.... the results ...

Quote

".... it seems a misnomer to refer to diaphragmatic breathing and development of the diaphragm muscle as the key to support of the trumpet player's wind power. Certainly, it is unlikely that the thin sheath that the diaphragm is can be hypertrophied and strengthened in a way similar to the large voluntarily-controlled skelital muscles. With this in mind, it would seem more reasonable to place emphasis on the student's ability to raise the anterior chest, thereby increasing its volume and develop the muscular power necessary to bring about the squeezing action of the musculature mentioned, and to gain full control over these muscles' function. This data would seem to have far-reaching import, not only for trumpet players, but wind players of all types as well as vocalists."

In Howard Snells book, "The Trumpet", the word Diaphram doesn't even appear in the sections on breathing... in fact, at my lessons when I asked him about breathing, his reply was ".. breath normaly, plus a bit more..."...

Quote

"... Good posture, a clear concept of sound and a general musicality, are the bases from which I teach. Undue emphasis (i.e. interference) on particular physical processes of the body may produce a momentary effect of improvement, but will certainly not be of lasting benefit. The effect will be to add extra tension to the player. Interference through seemingly precise verbal instructions - to do this or that with this or that - is both unnecessary and potentially harmful. "

I think that some teachers use the "diaphram" issue as something tangiable to grab on to. E.g. Use your diaphram instructions etc... what they really should be doing is telling the student to make a bigger sound, take a deep breath.. as soon as the diaphram is mentioned, the wheels fall off so to speak, and the student will forever be searching for way of improving their diaphram use. Tell them to improve their sound by breathing deeply , breathing in tempo, exhaling in tempo prior to inhaling in tempo (the Carmaine Caruso Method ) etc.. and focus on Sound rather than a part of the breathing apperatus that can't be directly controlled.

just my 2 cents!
 
Claude Gordons Methods do work - but you need to be a certain kind of person to suceed with his approach to playing. You need to do the same (or virtually the same) excersises every day and try to play across a four octave range within a few mins of starting your daily practice.

I myself have done this (and the Louis Maggio system) on occaisions and have found it useful but ultimately not something that you could incorporate into a daily practice routine for a long time. I would recommend that everyone give these methods a try at some point beacause they do have thier benefits.

One thing both Claude Gordon and Louis Maggio stress is the importance of breathing very deeply 'like a drowning person going down for the last time'. Breathing this deeply requires use and control of the diaphragm to releaase the air in a steady controlled fashion.
 
Diaphram...

Mike Saville said:
Claude Gordons Methods do work - but you need to be a certain kind of person to suceed with his approach to playing.

I have considered using his "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice" in the past, but with having to learn repertoire and new band music in general it seemed a bit much. Instead, I have practice routines similar to those outlined in Howard Snells book.

There are forums dedicated to the Systematic Approch, the Carmine Caruso method, and the Louis Maggio method on the Trumpet Herald website..

http://www.trumpetherald.com
 

iggmeister

Member
To Mike Saville

Thanks for your consideration (assasination) of my comments. Only joking!

I agree with most of what you have said. The main thing is to be aware of how we breathe and know when it is not being used to the full potential.

I still maintain that you should forget about breathing when playing. Playing notes and playing with style takes up too much concentration. The very fact that I mentioned that I still do the exercises from time to time suggests that I too fall into bad habits.

Since you didn't like my example of Dizzy Gillespie I'm going to compare playing a brass instrument to golf which you will probably consider also a poor example. The golf swing can be broken down and analysed into so many parts. However, you cant have all of that going through your mind when you swing the club back or else you would shank it, thin it or kill a spectator. Similarly with playing you need to be concentrating on playing. Some say you should be listening for the note you are going to play before you play it. You can't be thinking about breathing at the same time. You need to take it for granted that that will be done properly anyway.

Practice truly does make perfect. However when you notice something is wrong with your playing generally, that is the time when IMHO you should consider whether your breathing is working.

I'm sure if you were to ask the best players in the world, they may consider their breathing when they are practising but the last thing going through their mind when performing is "am I breathing right?". After all, that is what all those hours of practice are for.

In the words of Donnie Brasco, "forget aboud' it".

Cheers

Igg
 

neiltwist

Active Member
what i try to do is exercises on specific things, and only concentrate on them during that exercise. Then after time, i often find that i'm doing the things i'm concentrating on during the exercises all the time!
 

bladder

Member
Neil makes a good point here. The hardest part of learning a new, better technique is applying it on stand. When the pressure's on, you've got to produce the goods, musically that is. During the months spent honing a new technique it's all too easy to revert 'back' to the 'old' way. This probably hinders the learning of the technique, be it an embouchure adjustment, or even a new style of breathing.
 
Iggy, the Golf swing is a lot more complicated that playing a brass instrument if you ask me! :) :)

I can see your point about forgetting, and I would still advocate that If I think about anything technically when I am playing it is to ensure that I breathe well and support the air from the diaphragm - even on a gig. If I am playing well then I guess technique does not play such a prominent part in my thoughts.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on the forgetting about it. :D
 

TIMBONE

Active Member
Using the diaghram

1. FILLING THE LUNGS...think of a long baloon, restrict the top and fill it from the bottom. Fill your lungs properly and your tummy will expand.

2. SUPPORT...the diagphram(or however you spell it)are the same muiscles you use when you have a baby, or ...........well.........have to push something out...DON'T CHASTISE ME, I AM BEING SERIOUS........you should 'feel' these muscles(just below the lungs)doing work to support your breathing for playing a wind instrument or singing, (or shouting effectively at kids!!!!!).

3. DEFINITIVE EXERCISE...play scales eithout using the tongue, 'huff' the notes...when you can do this, the diagpram(however you spell it)is working..........it takes about six months to develop.

xxx
 

Kernow

Member
There is a lot of discussion about the diaphram as always.
There is one small point that everyone seems to be missing.
There is no such thing as diaphramatic breathing when playing, it is not you diaphram that does the work as your diaphram is no more than a small flap.
To produce notes and sound it is down to breathing correctly and using your abdominal muscles.
I know that diaphramatic breathing sounds better than something like abdominal muscle breathing but it really has nothing to do with your diaphram.
In short, diaphramatic breathing is a myth, breathe properly and use your muscles correctly and your playing will improve no end.
End of medical lesson for today from Dr. Kev.
 

TIMBONE

Active Member
diaphram

I stand corrected. My mistake is terminology, ie, supporting the lungs with the diaphram, it should be support the diaphram with the abdominal muscles. Everything I advise is correct however. The lungs must be filled, from the bottom up, my analogy about the 'long balloon' doesn't mean that you restrict your throat of course, it is just how you aim for the bottom. When you fill your lungs, the diaphram is pushed down, and the tummy will expand to make way. The 'huffing' exercises develop the abdominal muscles, which in turn support the diaphram, which supports the lungs. Subsequently, if the throat is open, and the embouchure correct, the column of air is fully controlled - beautiful, effortless pianissimos, and, as Dennis Wick says, the high notes just 'fall out'.
 
There's a lot of disagreements about terminology!
If you buzz a short note very strongly, you should feel some muscles working. Use these every time you play with the instrument. Whatever they're called :twisted: Also excellent for high note register. Who needs that instrument anyway!
 

bassinthebathroom

Active Member
Had a really interesting talk from a chap called Markus Theinert from Miraphone (German Brass Inst. Makers) yesterday. He spent around an hour going through breathing exercises, some of which were similar to those used in Yoga i think!
One of the exercises invovles sitting upright, but relaxed, closing your eyes and concentrating on visualising the cycle of breathing. Then concentrating on increasing your intake of breath, whilst maintaining the time over which it occurs! Very hard to explain, but very effective. Infact, I'm off to try it now. Plus the woman next to me here in the library, has just answered her mobile! Thought the library was a place of refuge!!!

Bye-bye for now!

PS
Well worth reading up on these techniques, especially lower brass players! After all if Arnold Jacobs could do it so well with one lung then we have no excuse!
 
i always got the impression that you can't control what your diaphragm is doing because when you breathe in, it sinks down and expands by itself and rises and shrinks again when breathing out. there is no way of using the properly because it does it by itself. i think saying using the diaphragm properly is a slightly false statement (but don't quote me on that, I'm probably wrong :wink: )
 

spanishflee

New Member
diaphragm

Infact, the diaphragm is a membrane which we have all used since birth. It is not about supporting with the diaphragm. Infact, the diaphragm is an involuntary membrane so we don't have any control of it. We actually build up the strength in our intercostal muscles around the rib cage, which enables the lungs to expand to a more efficient capacity and for a stronger exhale of the air. I believe that we use the idea of the diaphragm to make it easier to understand topics like support, but we shouldn't get too hung up on it. I myself have never thought about diaphragm support, but more about breath suupport and it hasn't bothered me!
 

neiltwist

Active Member
Ok, the way i see it, is that it doesn't matter how you see it, as long as it works, however, I have always been told to think of the diaphragm, so when I use the word, it isn't necessarily refering to it physically.


How I was taught to use my 'diaphragm':

Try coughing, what happens to your 'belly'? that is what I refer to when I say diaphragm, and it is also the state I try to play in so to speak.

now, try coughing again, but feel your lower back, you should be able to feel a bulge in time with your belly. That 'bulge' is how I measure how much I am using my 'Diaphragm'.

not really sure why I'm writing this, but that is what i think of when i say diaphragm anyway!
 

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