Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Breathing 101: A Two-Step Process


When playing the saxophone it is important for the performer to view breathing as a two-step process: inhalation and exhalation. It sounds like a no-brainer, but often times we have tendency to place a lot of emphasis on the exhalation process                       not so much on inhaling. I tend to view the breath of the breathing process as being like violinist’s bow during bowing. Only then it's up bow and down bow, each being of equal importance.  

Normally when we practice longs tones, we take a quick breath, and then exhale slowly trying to hold the steady tone for as long as possible. But in order to fully master the breathing process it is important to practice both steps slowly. Below is a practice routine to help you master the process.

Step One:  Set the metronome at a slow metronomic marking. I suggest starting with a moderately slow M.M. such as quarter note = 70. As you become more comfortable with the process you can gradually decrease the tempo.

Step Two: The goal here is to inhale as slowly as possible. In the beginning it’s good to give yourself a set goal such as to inhale for two measures or 8 Inhaltion Beats Per Minutes (IBPM).

As shown in the example below, measures 1 & 2 should be for inhaling only.


Step Three: Once you inhaled for two measure, you can then start the exhalation process or Exhalation Beats Per Minute (EBPM) from measures 3 - 6.  Generally, your EBPM is twice that of your IBPM. For example if you inhale for two measures, your IBPM is 8; whereas, if you exhale for four measures, your EBPM is 16. I suggest that when you log your breathing that you keep track of the beats instead of the measures because your progress may occur in one beat increments instead one measure increments ( four beats).


Even though it would be impossible to breathe this way during performance, the goal here is to train yourself to view your breathing as a two-step process, giving you the breath control to play at many dynamic levels and speeds.

Just remember this: If you don’t load up with enough fuel before embarking upon your journey, you might find yourself out of gas, stuck on the side of the road!


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