Introducing Suspension Breath Support- Using Flow Breathing to achieve supported breath control

suspension breath support

Suspension Support

Image Credit:
Pedro Moura Pinheiro

As some readers may already know, I introduced the Flow Breathing technique a few weeks ago on Marion Harrington's blog (which I highly recommend).

Flow Breathing is a new way to learn and control breath support.

Note: If you use Twitter, you can follow Flow Breathing discussions using #Legato

The refined basic Flow Breathing technique is published with a short introductory video here on Buzzing Reed at: Flow Breathing Technique.

Using the natural motions in Flow Breathing you can achieve high level breath support leading to subtle control of tone, intonation and articulation.

Suspension Support is one of the primary techniques I developed using Flow Breathing.

Suspension Support refers to controlling the top of the inhale by slowing it down and eventually "suspending" the flow from inhale to exhale.

The following simple series of steps introduces Suspension Support in its simplest form.

  • Slow down the top turn of the breath - Breathe very open through your mouth and nose. While keeping in mind the flowing motions from inhale to exhale, slow down the breath at that "turn" of the breath from inhale to exhale. Keep the air moving. Just slow down the top turn.
  • "Fogging the Mirror" - If you can do that without tensing neck, shoulders or back, slow the motion even more at the top of the inhale, so the exhale becomes a slow, whispered sigh, like fogging a mirror. Notice the open and lifted feeling in the rib cavity floating up and out on inhale and gently floating down and in on exhale.

Note: In order to "practice" (meaning repeat to improve) this exercise, you may need to allow an occasional pause at the end of the exhale to regain the natural flowing motions. If you become too focused on controlling the flow you may lose the flow. Allow the pause at the end of the breath occasionally to prevent any unnecessary tension.

  • Lean to Return to the Suspended Inhale - Next, at the top turn of the breath, allow only a little "fogging of the mirror" before returning to the top of the inhale. Despite controlling the breath more, remember to keep the turns smooth. Allow the inhale to return a bit faster than the exhaled "fogging". Do this a few times.

The suspended point of uplifted and full air will become your "home base", the point to which you return after playing a note. This position at the top of the breath encourages a light support "from above" the note, called Suspension Support.

  • "Ha-ing" a note - Now I'll ask you take your instrument. Using only air attacks, not tongue, play a note, perhaps an open g on clarinet. (For any other wind instrument, play any easy note.) Using an air attack, such as a single laugh, "Ha", play an open g. As soon as you "ha" the note, return to the full uplifted (suspended) position.
  • Ha-Ha some more! - Next, play a simple scale on octave, using air, "ha"-ing each note 4 times. Use only a puff of air for each note, returning immediately to the "suspended" full up position.

These exercises may feel a bit odd at first, but I assure you that you have just begun to explore the wonderful possibilities of Flow Breathing and Suspension Support.

Next Monday I'll present a video of the exercise I describe above plus a few more.

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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