Practice Methods for Circular Breathing.


Using a straw, bassoon bocal, and the instrument. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor # 76. This video is a reworked version of BDP # 8 and 9.


<music: Flight of the Bumblebee>


Get the smallest hole possible and even with a small straw I will be pinching the straw a bit.


Now you need to practice a circular breathing in four different ways. First is the practice of inflating and deflating your cheeks.


You can watch that you have of air going through the water. Hold a cup in front of you for circular breathing.


I am going to pinch the straw and blow through this and inflate and deflate my cheeks. All the while I am keeping the bubbles moving.


Then the next step is to inflate your cheeks, close off the pocket air you have created inside your mouth, inside your cheeks with the back of your tongue. It is sealed off. The area of the mouth is available (for air).


Push out the air with your cheeks. Other performers talk about moving their tongue forward and decreasing the size of the reservoir of air in the mouth. Pinch the straw so you have the most resistance. Inflate your cheeks, close off with the tongue, push out the air with your cheeks.


<sound of bubbles>


Sometimes it is best to take half a breath. You don't need to take a full breath to do this practice. It takes too long to run out of air.


Take a half breath, inflate your cheeks, blow out the air with your cheeks, stopping the breathing with your lungs. You closed off the tongue at the back of your throat.


I am blowing out some air and then now I am doing it.


<sound of bubbles>


Now the aspect of circular breathing is to breathe in through your nose while you're pushing air out of your mouth and that keeping the air constantly moving our of your mouth and taking a little breath again through the straw. I will do this third step.


I am getting closer. You can see that the bubbles are still going while I breathe in.


See I was breathing in through my nose and the bubbles were still going out.


The last, the fourth step, is to re-engage your air after you have breathed in, keeping the bubbles constantly going.


Close off the straw so you very little air coming out and have plenty of time to form the reservoir and the chance breathe in.



<sound of bubbles>


the bubbles are continuing to go and I have breathed in several times. Now bassoonists can use the bassoon bocal.


We have the whisper key hole on the side, which makes a very small hole.


Close off the end of the bocal here (that goes into the instrument) with your thumb.  You can feel the air escaping with your finger. It is such a tiny amount of air that it gives you a chance to practice. Let me now try circular breathing. You can't see bubbles, but you can seem my approach here.


I circular breathed twice. Normally you don't need to circular breathe so rapidly. Normally it will take many seconds between breaths. So anyhow, God bless you. I think with a little practice you will be able to circular breathe with a straw or bassoon bocal.


I know you will be excited to apply this to your instrument. I will do this in the next video.


Pick a stable note that does not use a lot of air: a note that you can play a long time on. I find the C#4 (full fingering) the D4, F4 to be useful and stable for this.


We are going to do this with the four steps. I will demonstrate from the front and side views. The first step you need to do (on your stable note) is to inflate and deflate your cheeks. The air supply will be going from your lungs but you inflate and deflate.




The reason for doing that is you are trying to keep the front portion of your embouchure, your lips, from moving. This is not all that easy to do. Once you master that step--the inflation and deflation of the cheeks--the second step is then to end the note with the reservoir of air you have in your cheeks. You are going to stop blowing with your lungs. 


You raise your tongue in the back of your mouth to create that reservoir of air. You then I push out the air with your cheeks while trying to keep the pitch the same [without deviation].




It works for only a fraction of time. I will do it again.




That time the pitch raised up a bit. I have to learn how to keep the pitch constant. It is a matter of practice.


This third step in this sequence is to inflate your cheeks blow out the air with your cheek muscles while breathing in at the same time. We discussed the first video you actually have to allow breath to come in by lowering the soft palate. You probably are not aware of the movement of the part of your body.


It is a strange sensation to have the tongue cutting off the air supply blowing out with your cheeks and then air coming in.




I don't know if you could hear, but I breathed in through my nose. I will try it again for you.





Then the fourth step is then to re-engage the air before the cheeks have fully deflated.


You have to work to master these four steps.




You can probably hear that there is a point of re-engagement. This is a hiccup when the air [from the lungs] comes in.


I am a bit out of practice with circular breathing, but as you practice more you can even it out, but that there is still going to be that little bit of hiccup in the air.


Part of the issue is how to hide that re-engagement of the air from the lungs. If there are moving notes or trills the ear doesn't notice the hiccup.


For instance, if I do a C#-D#4 trill, I think you will scarcely hear it.


<C#-D#4 trill>


I will try other notes.


<moving notes hiding circular breathing>


It sounds very fluid with moving notes.


You will find it is easier to circular breathe in the upper register of the bassoon. There is more resistance to the notes; you use less air.


With more air pressure you use less air. It is harder to circular breathe in the lower registers. That's unfortunate since it is in those we wish we could use it. If you play a low C you run out of air very quickly. But it is difficult to circular breathe on the bassoon in that register.



Here's a side view of me doing the process.




Well, one passage I want to bring to your attention is found in Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. This is the Andante molto moto movement, the brook scene, between letters A and B. You will find this around measure 30 in that movement.


It is a lovely solo played in the orchestra with the strings, but there is no place for the bassoonist to breathe.




So I breathed there twice on those A naturals. Here is the music.



I hope that these videos have been helpful. Let me conclude by blessing you with a prayer found in the Hebrew Bible.


"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."


<music: Flight of the Bumblebee>