Flow Breathing and a Path to Peak Mastery: Finding Patience in the Details of Playing

Flow Breathing, a Path to Peak Mastery

Patience in the Details

Image Credit- In Search of Lost Time

Using Flow Breathing to find patience in the details of playing a phrase-

This article picks up where my series of 3 guest posts on a friend's blog site ends. If you have not read the article on Flow Breathing and Constructive Rest, please go and check it out now.

When you are comfortable with constructive rest and Flow Breathing you are ready to go to the next step. The feeling of balanced wholeness attained lying on the floor can be translated to a standing position.

Slowing down to the speed of music-

You are ready to make music. But wait, did I say pick up your instrument? Nope. Be patient.

You are laying the deepest of all foundations possible, a wide base of control which will allow sustainable and efficient advancement.

While standing or sitting, become aware of the Flow Breathing motions which you achieved lying down. Staying present "in the room", feel your breath wave move in and out a few times, with nice smooth turns.

Pick a phrase you are comfortable with, perhaps one which has been memorized.

Music making occurs in your mind before much else can happen. You cannot play a phrase well without hearing it first in your head.

Imagine the phrase in your head. (not in your body.) As you imagine the music keep your body and Flow Breathing very simple and aware just as you did while in constructive rest.

Pretend you are holding your instrument. Check in with your Use- be alert in the room, be in your body and allow your Flow Breathing to move unimpeded.

You may have to remind yourself of these qualities by lying down again. That's okay. Do it.

This is an add-on project, not a one after the other exercise-

Each step is added on to the awareness of the previous ones. This may require time and repetition of steps. Be patient.

Try picking up your instrument. Did your breathing change?

Are you still able to be in the room, poised and alert with free and un-impeded natural breathing? If not, go back a step to where you can assemble all the steps before continuing.

There are no real shortcuts.

If you can pick up your instrument and hold it (not playing) and imagine the phrase while remaining aware of your flowing breath, then you are ready to "think" and "act on" playing. But do not play yet! Finger the notes as you blow out your lips (not through the mouthpiece yet!) and mime the phrase as you hear it, all the while keeping some awareness tuned to all the previous steps.

When you “blow” the mimed phrase (assuming you are a wind player) be careful to keep the effort "small", not pushing into any real "support" or air pressure.

You can build the pressure gradually as you are able if you can maintain the smooth wave of Flow Breathing you noticed in constructive rest. Keep it curvy!! Go as slow as necessary to keep those curves.

You want to find the most gently graded path through this process. Keeping the two curves of your Flow Breath wave smooth, blow a little harder. The amount of air expelled is not a goal, just the speed. (When I play I may comfortably exhale only a bit before I begin to tense my neck!)

Remember the three parts of Flow Breathing and keep the whole package of your Self as one gorgeous Unit of Breathing lusciousness.

You must become responsible for attuning your attention to your whole Self in the room exhaling with a bit of extra speed. Be in the room.

Involving your instrument, but not yet playing-

When all the previous steps can be achieved with relative consistency try bringing the instrument to your lips and taking a comfortable breath and NOT PLAYING. Did your breathing tense? Did any part of the whole get lost in the "goal" of intended playing? If so, go back a step or two.

As you can see there is a lot of "2 steps forward, 1 step back.” Or 2 steps back, or 3 or even 4, however many steps back to get back to Flow Breathing.

The ground on which you can build anything-

The primacy of relaxed wholeness in your awareness of yourself, in the room breathing unimpeded, becomes your "ground" for basing the quality of all future "intentions" to play the instrument.

Any actual playing must come from your alert self in the room breathing with Flow. I can assure you, patience now will pay off in spades later!

Small steps. Play one or two notes-

Blow the first note or two of the (by now much desired!) phrase of music you have been "imagining". Just one or two notes may be possible with this soft effort.

Do you remember letting the exhale extend while lying down?

Using that soft effort, continue to add a note or two to the phrase.

Explore this pattern until you can play the whole phrase. The tone may be weak but that is easily fixable. The primary goal is to maintain the flow of your breathing while playing.

You now have the deepest possible "foundation" for building one phrase, or many.

Happy Music Making!

Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? Please consider joining the Musician Practice Café.

The ideas of Flow Breathing and Suspension Support will be included among others in my future book The Well Tempered Clarinetist.

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4 comments for “Flow Breathing and a Path to Peak Mastery: Finding Patience in the Details of Playing

  1. August 27, 2010 at

    Hi David,

    It's not talked about much, but EVERYONE needs to breathe well when they play! Singers, obviously, need to use their breath very well. Pianists need to breathe as if they are singing.

    Without breath, piano playing sounds completely flat and boring. Phrasing = breath, so there you go.

    Congratulations on a wonderful post! Your experience and in-depth exploration make a huge difference.


    • August 28, 2010 at

      Gretchen- I wish I could replicate you! You are such a wonderful supporter. I hope to become more reciprocal when I settle down a bit more with this writing project.

      Thanks so much for your comments and thoughts. It really does help me stay the course!


      • August 28, 2010 at

        Hi David!


        You already know how to settle down. Take a deep breath! (sorry…) ; )


      • August 29, 2010 at

        🙂 Thanks.

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