Archives par mot-clé : breathing

the air column

The inner vibration of the instrumentist, whether he is a wind player or not – as you can figure out in Dominique Hoppenot‘s Inner Violin / Le violon intérieur -, expands in the air column, from the sound source to his vocal cords, up to his embouchure, then gets amplified by his instrument.

You can live through this slender inner space – rather named “column of sound“ by Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice – by relaxing your abdomen muscles, focussing on your natural breathing process, which makes you forget about your embouchure while enhancing your verticality and the deep rooting of the air column, like a tree trunk which would be embodied by your lower limbs.


The air column vibrates and recycles like the water jet at the center of the basin.

You should always internalize yourself, this way, stretching the sound out is appropriate, but doing so, just focus on the sound only, and keep your vertical standing up, together with your body opening.

When you sing, your body does open up, and it should always behave this way, we name it “sitting on the air“.

Robert Pichaureau
(translated by Guy Robert)


The idea is that the movements of the vocal cords be utilized for the artistic purposes of shaping a sound.

David LiebmanDeveloping a Personal Saxophone Sound

voice and breathing

When you watch yourself breathing naturally, releasing your lower back rearwardly to avoid unnecessary tensions, you become aware of the connection between your body and the ground, embodied by your lower members, like a trunk linked to its roots.

Then, while relaxing down to the base of the sound column, your inner vibration takes off from your heels, and you certainly do not push, consuming then as little air as possible and thus developing a rich sound spectrum.


I used to consider the broad breathing process, coming without any pushing.


You should actually concentrate on your self-letting go.

(adapted by Guy Robert)


Such a correctly emitted sound rebalances breathing on a non-pushing mode.

(adapted by Guy Robert)


Part of vocal training is learning to breathe so that the exhalation coordinates with the activity of the larynx. Once we acquire excellent listening, the mechanisms that regulate the larynx, pharynx, tongue, lips, etc…, must be implemented and the vocal apparatus must function perfectly.

When all that is mastered, singing indeed seems to be simply a matter of breathing.


With breathing exercises as with exercises for the larynx, you will need patience. Acquiring exceptional mastery over the breath is a long and serious learning process. You need to acquire ample, calm breathing. Never work over tension or fatigue. Short sessions through the day will yield better results than one long session.

Once the respiratory mechanism is well regulated, you have to integrate it with all the other proprioceptice sensations specific to singing.


With training, only the diaphragm takes part in respiration for singing. The thoracic muscles remain in relaxed extension so the ribs stay open and cannot exert too much pressure. In fact, it is not easy to consciously direct the movements of the diaphragm to retain the air and make it flow over the vocal cords without ever pushing. (…) The thorax, as expanded as possible and relatively immobile without being locked, assures phonation.

Everyone has a different way of describing this. Gigli told me that he let his belly “fall to the ground “ to breathe and maintained the same feeling as long as the breath steam lasted. That way, the abdominal muscles do not interfere with the diaphragm.


Singers must be taught to act judiciously on the exhalation.


What happens in normal respiration ?


You have to take in a comfortable amount of air, no more. Then you distribute that air with minimum pressure, as if caressing the vocal cords. This excites the spinal column so that it starts to sing.


Again, you are reminded that everything lies on the effort necessary to avoid stress.

(adapted by Guy Robert)


Singing well brings about the rediscovery of true respiration, calm and unstressed, with a natural physiological rhythm. The diaphragm is liberated, autonomous, not locked in expansion.


Certainly all these movements and gestures are equally muscular. But they respond to a set of muscles that are the antagonistic push muscles, the flexors.


Alfred Tomatis, The Ear And The Voice
(translated by Roberta Prada and Pierre Sollier)

piano is the instrument

Concentrating on proprioceptive images drives your internal vibration to your instrument, giving life to your musical ideas over your natural breathing as if you would sing them : then your instrument amplifies and projects them around. As soon as your instrument seems forgotten, since you are relaxing yourself on your sound center (the location of which is felt from your appropriate body preparation), you feel as if you were directly plugged to your musical speech : you do not pay attention to the so-called technical problems, and become the actual master of your instrument.

To really enjoy it, you should play soft and full tones in order to better drive the sound emission. The full sensation of your sound requires some progression, beginning with a slow, soft and precise pattern : such a practicing indeed gives time to your vibrating sound to deploy and settle in your voice, enhancing your sensations flow from your belly bottom down to your heels. Then, keeping your sound source located as low as possible, makes you hold your optimal and fat vibration longer and longer. This way, you physically understand how your musical thought can drive your instrument.


{ Steinhausen on the psychic origin of technique : in 1905, several months after the appearance of Rudolf Maria Breithaupt‘s Die Natürliche Klaviertechnik, Dr. Friedrich Adolph Steinhausen’s Die Physiologische Fehler und Umgestaltung der Klaviertechnik (“The Physiological Misconceptions andReorganization of Piano Technique“) was published. }

Beginning practice starts with too much expenditure of force. The elimination of too much muscle action is the real basis for developing agility.


While the mind is dominating and determining this goal, the whole arm is “the animated tool“, but always, only the tool.


{ Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was the first to emphasize consistently the importance of mental factors in the pianist’s practical work. He presented his ideas in his edition of the Bach Well-Tempered Clavichord (1894). }

Busoni suggests that, until the musical meaning becomes clear, one should not touch the instrument. Because the demands of the keyboard tend to force one to forget about musical meaning, mental practicing away from the instrument plays an important part in the preparatory work.


1/3 – When a stimulus creates excitation, the result is a discharge of impulses. Inhibition suppresses superfluous (or even harmful) excitation. The restraining, coordinating and protective role of inhibition is of utmost importance in the integrative activity of the central nervous system (…)

2/3 – Slow and extremely even playing is indispensable, not only for obtaining clear proprioceptive sensations but for strengthening the inhibitory process.

3/3 – For strengthening the inhibitory process, I recommend practicing pianissimo, extremely evenly, in slow as well as in faster tempos. The student should also be able to regulate both sudden and gradual increase or decrease in volume in any section of the composition and in any conceivable tempo. The ability to do this, plus the ability to slow down and to stop at any given moment, is the best proof of proper balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes.


When a pianist realizes a given musical idea, the tonal image, the auditory stimulation (conditional stimulus), must always precede the motor reaction (unconditional stimulus), in performance as well as in practicing.


The musical incentive has to be a signal provoking the motor activity. Otherwise the latter, the technique, can easily become an end in itself.


Each time an intricate passage is repeated, its execution demands a new adaptation, and so acquiring technique appears as adjustment. Repetition, instead of dull drilling, now becomes a trial solution, a trial always rationally prepared.


During one practice period, several conscious well-prepared repetitions of a troublesome spot in a piece can be sufficient. When we repeat that spot too many times, our attention is weakened and consequently distracted : unconscious repetition would probably obliterate the positive results we had achieved.


(…) the increase of tempo while studying a musical composition should proceed gradually, and this increase must often alternate with slow and very careful playing. The ability to play evenly and the ability to slow down at any point in a passage serve as criteria of precise and sufficient inhibition. (…) Deep legato practicing is extremely useful for strengthening weak nervous processes.


{ Josef Hofmann (1876-1957) }

“The full acoustic picture of the music must be lodged in the mind, before it can be expressed through the hands.“ Then the “playing“ is simply the manual expression of something [a pianist] knows.


George Kochevitsky,
The Art Of Piano Playing

sound of inner violin

Your best inner vibration is lived through and felt in consistency with your natural breathing, hence feeding your musical speech, which becomes spontaneous while getting more personal.


In order to express (your art), (…) you must exist within your body, you should have something to say, and be able to say it.


What is described in a teaching speech as live and always renewed concepts easily becomes dogmatic when written down and you might take a risk in being satisfied by an intellectual understanding while only the lived experience matters.


True knowledge develops only through analyzing and assimilating information according to your own personality, and “knowing“ necessarily requires the duty of personal experience.


Dominique Hoppenot, Le violon intérieur
(translated by Guy Robert)