Better breathing for optimum trombone playing

I conducted an interesting social and musical experiment this week. After producing a video on better breathing for wind instruments, I created an incentive to leave a comment below the Youtube video. I offered a free copy of Jazz Ear Savvy to the first 10 good comments. I got all 10 in record speed and as of today have 42 comments. Pretty good for 485 views.

The reason for wanting the comments is because I wanted feedback on the ideas presented in the video. In essence, I was promoting the benefit of breathing with a 1 inch inside diameter tube in order to feel the opening of the throat. Watch the video.


Now, I’m not a doctor and I do not claim to be a specialist in physiology. All I know is that the large opening of the tube creates a corresponding opening somewhere in between the teeth and the lungs. I’m calling it the throat. Overwhelmingly, the comments were positive, most claiming that the tube allows for a less constricted airway and therefore, a more open flow of air into the horn. That’s what I experience.

Now to be fair, one commenter didn’t think much of my tube or the conclusion, writing, “I feel you have gone down an overly-complicated and too remotely-connected route to “open throat”. Feel free to read the comment, but he’s basically saying that the open throat comes primarily from the tongue position and shape. Certainly the arched tongue has an influence on the airstream. For me, no matter the position and shape of the tongue, I cannot replicate the open-ness of the throat that is produced by the tube.

Everyone has a different body, different strength in certain areas, different reactions to various stimuli, and so on. While certain fundamentals exist for playing any instrument, there is no one way to play the trombone or any instrument. I suggest trying the tube as I illustrate in the video (or rolled up piece of paper) and if it helps you create a more ample air stream that produces for you better tone, intonation, low range, high range or anything else, go with it.

Other comments included:

“After practicing the technique with a piece of paper I tried to play my horn while keeping the concept of an open throat in my mind and I think it made my sound stronger.”

“I rolled up a piece of paper, about 1″ in diameter, and starting taking some deep breaths, focusing on opening the throat. WOW! After pulling out the horn and blowing a few notes, I could feel my breaths becoming deeper, my teeth spreading wider, and all in all, even the leaky bass trombone felt easy to play.”

“Working with the tube is a great way to help counter the Valsalva maneuver (closing the airways), which affects me and many others, especially when my playing schedule gets busy!”

And this last one from a doctor:

“Pulmonary function testing is done through a tube of approximately 1 inch diameter and we give instructions almost identical to what you were doing. There is science to back up what you’re saying. I must not be too bright because I never thought to apply this to my trombone playing. Thank you. I’m sure it will make a tremendous difference.”

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