I'd like to elaborate briefly on a subject vital to playing a wind instrument (or singing): Breath Support.
First, a two sentence refresher of the basic ideas of Flow Breathing, from which Suspension Breath Support evolves:
When the breath is allowed to go "by itself" without any interference, the natural motions of breathing can be observed. From that point of detached awareness it becomes possible to engage the motions of breathing without losing the coordination of natural breathing.
The next step: Suspended Breath Control
As confidence builds in the breath's awareness, it's only a small step to slowing the cycle of breathing; and another small step to "suspend" or "float" the motion of the breath, pausing it in motion.
Floating or pausing the breath within motion allows the possibility of return to motion. A suspended breath floats and has the potential of moving in either direction, in or out. A subtle and detailed control becomes possible through suspending the breath in motion.
It is important to feel both possibilities of motion at any point of suspended breath. Why?
In order to master musical expression through the breath, an infinite variety combinations of motion in either direction must be readily available. By developing awareness of possible motions from any one position, the breath will respond readily to all required motions to effectively express all musical possibilities.
The following is a quick way to apply this technique to breath "support" for clarinet or any wind instrument or voice:
1- Play or sing a note; then "release" that note by suspending the breath in motion. Basically this means "stop blowing out".
2- After doing this a few times, move to the next step by slowing the release, meaning "stop blowing out slowly". By slowing the release to neutral or suspended, the note will diminuendo (decrescendo, get softer) as it releases.
3- Continue to practice releasing the air (stopping blowing out slowly) until the motion of release toward suspended breath becomes familiar and a longer diminuendo is possible.
After playing around with suspending the breath, breath control (support) will become lighter and more subtle.
Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? You could do so at the Practice Café.