Archives par mot-clé : exhalation

body and breathing

By letting his chest relaxation flow down to the sound source, the music player secures the continuity of the internal propagation from inhaling to exhaling ; such a configuration then brings a strong support to the vibration carried by the exhaling, from the very end of inhaling.


Exhalation is primarily a passive activity during non-exerted breathing, since the diaphragm relaxes while gravitational and resetting forces of the chest and the lungs act as a spring during exhalation, which narrows the chest. 


Exhalation must perform slowly and regularly in order to play a quiet melody.


If the chest is expanded, as with inhalation, exhalation automatically begins when the muscles relax and the air is exhaled without any significant muscular contraction.


This flexible system of controlled breathing is typically called breath support. The amount of emitted air is therefore controlled by a flexible coordination of simultaneously activated inhalation and exhalation muscles.


Claudia Spahn, Bernhard Richter, Johannes Pöppe et Matthias Echternach,
Physiological Insights for Players of Wind Instruments (DVD)
(excerpts selected by  Guy Robert)

find your voice without blowing

Thanks to your downward letting-go accompanying your exhalation, your flexible triggering of your inner vibration propels rich vocal harmonics, consuming very little air which you can imagine or feel like it were recycling within the body, at the diaphragm center.


The two lower vocal cords are drawn together and vibrate through emission. The vibration is caused by air passing across the cords. The volume of air is so small that it seems almost spontaneous and automatic as with speech. The brain essentially regulates the tension of the vocal cords to keep the flow of air at a minimum, so that the vibration corresponds to the desired pitch.


Whenever the thorax contracts prematurely, it prevents the diaphragm from functioning to its full extent.


(…) In order to avoid pushing when you sing, you need to notice certain proprioceptive sensations.


You must learn to conserve stored air and to give out the least possible amount, as if you were distilling the sonic flow in some way. (…) The more slowly and regularly the flow emerges, the less underlying tension results, and the more easily the larynx works.


The great art consists of not pushing, of remaining in a state of supple tension, and of avoiding undue muscular effort.


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

inner violin and breathing

We can extend the violin bow <=> air column analogy mentioned before for the sound laying during its initial emission : the first push of the bow sets the air column into vibration, at the very moment when inhaling becomes exhaling, during the handover from the diaphragm to the transverse abdominus muscle.


The division between the “upper“ and “lower“ parts of the body vanishes when it gets unified by the tilt of the pelvis.


To hasten the awareness of your back muscles and integrate them quicker into your instrumental action, it is recommended to “imagine“ them, to develop their role, to locate them, to play them at will (…)


One who knows how to terminate a sound is sure of being able to resume it.


Breathing (…) involves the entire trunk, from the nose to the anus, in a complex and admirable muscular synergy that appears as a huge wave which rises and falls down along the trunk, without border demarcation between the “upper“ and “lower“ parts of the body.


Inhaling then consists of an active tension of the diaphragm, together with a relaxation of the abdominal and pelvic muscles, while exhaling develops as an active tension of those same abdominal muscles pushing up the then-relaxed diaphragm.


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

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)

breathing and air

Air naturally surrounds you and your body spontaneously ingests it during your inhaling, thanks to the diaphragm action, released then by the muscles surrounding it.Thorax_EN

During this stage, it is recommended not to inhale more air than necessary (in other words, do not voluntarily take in any air), in order to ensure the fullness of the sound to come, as Alfred Tomatis states it in The Ear And The Voice, because
– this would trigger contractions altering the wealth (i.e. the sound spectrum) of the air column vibrations ;
– such contractions would subsequently kick you out of your air column (you would not be sitting on it any more) ;
– you would then need more energy, because of those unwanted contractions, to be able to achieve your musical speech until your next inhaling, which would therefore last less long and be less mastered.

Hence, the best air quality is provided by a perfectly relaxed abdomen until the sound emission smoothly begins, springing out of the sound source and synchronized with your exhalation, as it is scientifically explained by Claudia Spahn, Bernhard Richter, Johannes Pöppe et Matthias Echternach in their Physiological Insights for Players of Wind Instruments : you can reach this configuration by focusing on your spontaneous inhaling process while avoiding any disturbing stress by letting it going down your back. Then, you feel the air column vertically rolling down from the diaphragm, as the air gently vibrates through your heels and the ground.

Unification of your body results from this attitude, all feelings above your diaphragm being ignored, as Dominique Hoppenot points it out in Le violon intérieurThen, the conscious extension of this motion links up with the seamless sound laying (triggerring the vocal cords vibration) during the exhaling phase. This relies on the action of this specific transverse abdominus muscle, as singled out by Marie-Christine Mathieuto maintain your sound quality, you must feel its action flowing inwards and downwards, although it makes the diaphragm slowly raise, appearing as a seeming paradox only. When you run out of available air, releasing that transverse abdominus leads to a new spontaneous inhaling through the natural down-run of the diaphragm in your back, pulling down the lungs bottom to inflate them : keeping the feeling of your sound source under your sternum will insure that your solid sound extends through your next exhaling.


A true person breathes through his heels.

Robert Pichaureau, Favorite Expressions
(translated by Guy Robert)


You must relax when completing your inhaling, doing so, your instrument is naturally played.

The floating ribs get raised, which we name the costo-abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing. We should even say “diaphragmatic-costo-abdominal“ breathing, since inhaling is generated by the diaphragm.

Whether you play or you sing, the diaphragm raises, you don’t care about it, but it does go up. Relaxing carries inhaling, you don’t have to inhale, the diaphragm works that out. Release everything ! Don’t take any air in ! Thank you, and here it goes again and now…music comes in, not air.

Robert Pichaureau
(translated by Guy Robert)


The diaphragm operation determines the freedom of the aerial ways which proves vital to the technical operation of a wind instrument.

For singers and wind players, the breathing maximum does not mean the technical optimum.

The trickiest idea to grasp is that the player must RELEASE his diaphragm during his inhaling… in other words, he should not control it, which would prevent it from freely operate by itself. To voluntarily act on this muscle, even thinking about it, would readily limit its operation.

The diaphragm mobility around the floating ribs and the jaw flexibility both determine the pharynx opening, the free air flow, hence the sound magnitude and its spectral richness together with its emission comfort.

Dr Delphine Olivier-Bonfils, La respiration diaphragmatique
(translated by Guy Robert)


The transverse abdominus is simply the main muscle antagonistic to the diaphragm. It comes into play to quickly and powerfully expel the air, when the diaphragm relaxation – rather inefficient then – cannot achieve it any more.

Marie-Christine MathieuGestes et postures du musicien
(translated by Guy Robert)


Air should flow down while you inhale and certainly should not go up for the exhaling phase, but to the opposite, it should keep flowing down. Whichever way it runs out, you should consider that it does not flow back up to exit through your mouth, but it keeps flowing down during your low exhaling and your vertical pushing.

Michel RicquierTraité de pédagogie instrumentale
(translated by Guy Robert)


Thinking about the breath causes restriction, by forcing muscles to act counter to natural principles… Just focusing on the musical result you want will dictate how you’re going to use your air.

Joe Allard


Joe Allard would say (in perfect French of course) :
“Jouer, c’est respirer, il n’ y a pas de différence.”

David LiebmanDeveloping a Personal Saxophone Sound


The execution of a complex movement requires not only precise timing regulation but also involvement of the least muscle work needed for any given action. This is achieved by localizing the excitatory process.

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing