Archives par mot-clé : diaphragm

a virtual trunk

The Musician Sound Springs Out Of The Virtual Trunk

Where you realize you are perched on top of a virtual trunk.

Mastering Your Perching Up

Merging yourself with your instrument makes you vertically work out your air column, letting your relaxation rolling downwards : thereby, the part of your body located above your diaphragm becomes oblivious, while you can visualize the embouchure at the sound source, as your vital center in your belly bottom.

« You feel your upper body components to become lighter, as if they were freed from gravity, while you get invaded by an immovable, but not heavy, stability feeling in your abdomen.« 

« {Grigori Kogan in his lectures and later (1958) in his small book U vrat masterslva (“At the Gates of Mastery“) put forward as psychological prerequisites of successful pianistic work three basic principles :

(1) The ability to hear inwardly the musical composition which has to be realized on the instrument — to hear it extremely clearly as a whole, as well as exact in all its details.

(2) The most passionate and persistently intense desire to realize that glowing musical image.

(3) The full concentration of one’s whole being on his task in everyday practice as well as on the concert stage.}

The psycho-technical school advocates the free and complete use of all parts of the pianist’s apparatus, beginning at the fingertips and including the torso. This technique is universal, or in other words, the really natural technique of coordination.« 

grow your roots

Hence, your real physiologic trunk fades out behind the air column, while your pelvis and lower limbs appear now as a new virtual tree trunk, the roots of which ensure your posture stability and propagate the vibrating sound around.

« Grass cannot grow without its roots. Same thing with your sound : if you don’t provide it with roots, it crashes down, it’s as simple as that.

You can hold on to this natural breathing only if you stay relaxed. For that, you need to stand grounded on your feet, well balanced around your center of gravity.

When seated, you should consciously feel your buttocks and your feet. Anyway, you must be grounded, then you can let your relaxation spread downwards.« 

« You feel as if you were changed into a statue. You hang to the ground and not to your trumpet.« 

« The main idea consists in using gravity, instead of struggling with it, and in pulling power from the ground.

To achieve this, the musician should picture himself getting rooted like a tree : he then pushes downwards and the ground sends this input power back to him.« 


the embouchure

The Musician Sound Through His Embouchure

The instrument of the woodwind player really appears to behave as his megaphone, thanks to his embouchure.

Get Your Mask Down !

Your mouth / mouthpiece / reed / ligature set defines your global embouchure : this configuration may vary between players, closely combining your morphology and the gear you use.

Your inner resonance propagates to the reed, which should easily vibrate, opposing a low resistance, hence a not too hard reed is recommended in order to be able to master the depth of the sound, shaped up at the bottom of the air column (Peter King had told me once how he had bee surprised to see that Cannonball Adderley was playing a really weak reed, when he substituted him in England in the 70’s).

This way, you define the best mouthpiece/reed combination for your sound control : this compromise depend on several factors, but you must know how to adjust it, mainly by selecting another reed, on your usual mouthpiece. And if you need a softer reed to ease out your playing, then you would be able to modulate your reed strength later on, bringing full balance and self-confidence : through your mentally visualizing that your emission remains centered on the sound source, you avoid unnecessary contractions above your diaphragm (which would be triggered by too hard a reed), following the recommendations of Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice.

deep throat

By focusing on the opening of his sound column backward and downward, the player forgets about his real trunk and his mouth, thus ensuring that his throat remains free of contractions.

« The objective for both the pharynx and the larynx is to keep the throat open and supple, avoiding closure by the constrictor muscles. The regulation of the pharynx under the organizing control of the ear consists of achieving what is famous in singing as the open throat with the help of the dilator muscles and the tongue.« 

Think Your Sound, But No Pressing

The wind player sets up his vibrating attitude by rooting his air column in his heels, and moreover pictures his embouchure at the sound source, down to the bottom of his diaphragm : then, letting the relaxation down, his inner vibration gently takes off from the root of the air column, to feed the instrument through this embouchure.

Dominique Hoppenot describes how the violon player lets his vibration propage to the violon body through his clavicle.

« The most important of all is to listen to the sound that will come and not just to the sound already achieved.« 

Once your posture is set up and stabilized, your instrument naturally gets seized by your hands (entering your mouth if you are a wind player), to amplify the sound prepared in advance ; then your flexible and relaxed embouchure, which you actually forget, since you are focussed on the air column bottom, comes into play : it links you, as the sender (the instrumentist’s body), to the amplifier (the instrument body). The projected sound gets now worked out by your fingers, and your tongue (if relevant).

« You should forget all about your embouchure positioning, and be sure not to press it.« 

« The goal is to be as relax as possible in the embouchure area, so that the delicate mechanisms at the reed can be free to occur without exerting a strain on its vibrational capacity. By the time the air stream reaches the mouthpiece, the major portion of the work for a personal sound has already been completed.« 

« When you let your mouthpiece come to your mouth, enjoyment also enters as an intruding momentum. The same way as when you take momentum to jump over an obstacle, boom ! there it goes, you are played by your instrument, so you should not play yourself, this is not a wordplay.

As little as your embouchure takes off, then you nail your mouthpiece pinch, without looking for it, playing means then sitting on the air, this is fantastic !« 

« Generally, I prefer closer mouthpieces, but I try to find the combination of the length of the facing and the tip opening so that I don’t have to press hard to play it, so that everything feels easy.« 


the sound source

The Musician Sound Flows From The Sound Source

Mastering your internal vibration progressively makes you localize its source more and more precisely.

Spreading Pleasure

You should internally visualize the source of your sound at the bottom center point of your diaphragm, down to your heels and even beneath : this is the Japanese Hara or the Chinese Tan Tsienn, representing the location of universal energy, or of your original breath. This inner process is unveiled in George Kochevitsky’s Art Of Piano Playing.

down to rooting

Concentrating on the source of vibration, you can imagine it is located as deep as possible in the ground. Then, you let the vibrating sound flow around, and do not try to push it outside so that it keeps its fullness while resonating in the instrument.

Avoiding any unnecessary stresses, the wind player, or the pianist as well, can imagine and picture his vibration spreading in the ground.

« { Grigori Kogan in his lectures and later (1958) in his small book U vrat masterslva (“At the Gates of Mastery“) put forward as psychological prerequisites of successfulpianistic work three basic principles :

(1) The ability to hear inwardly the musical composition which has to be realized on the instrument — to hear it extremely clearly as a whole, as well as exact in all its details.

(2) The most passionate and persistently intense desire to realize that glowing musical image.

(3) The full concentration of one’s whole being on his task in everyday practice as well as on the concert stage. }

The most thoughtful and advanced musicians (…) insisted that “the technical training from the ‘outside’ must be replaced by technical training from the ‘inside’. “

Grigori Kogan called this third main trend in the theory of piano playing the psychotechnical school.« 

 « Hugo Riemann (1849-1919) wrote :

It is impossible to develop velocity otherwise than through exercise of the telegraphic apparatus from brain to muscles. The process from within-outward cannot be replaced by anything.« 

From this point down, your back muscles extend the inhalation process towards exhalation, converging from the diaphragm to the transverse abdominus muscle, and the air column enters into vibration along its whole height, feeding the vocal cords, as Alfred Tomatis shows it in The Ear And The Voice.

Incidently, you might consider the various understandings of “the sound source“, all of which are relevant to our subject…

customizing your sound

The real singer or instrumentist lets his inner vibration take off from the bottom of his sound column, which he can visualize from his heels, thanks to his down-flowing relaxation extending his natural inhaling : he should then maintain this tension-free feeling located at his roots level, regardless to the pitch height, thereby ensuring an homogeneous vibration of his body radiating sound in space, over the whole tessiture of his intrument.

You can then understand your personal tone color.

« Because of this activation and the special ability of the skeleton to transmit sounds, the control adopted by the bony voice is direct, conserves energy and maintains the integrity of the full spectrum of sound.

This production has nothing in common with ordinary vocal emission, even if that emission sounds easy. This degree of control is difficult, if not impossible, when we use only air conduction. Bone filters for higher sounds at the expense of lows, making sounds that are particularly rich and dense.

(…) It is easy to see the advantages of an emission that is easily controlled and rich in high frequencies. It has a propensity to align the spine. This in turn facilitates emission, releasing progressively more energy. »

« If [the sound] is not going to come from the mouth or nose, where will it come from ? You make it with the whole body through the excitation of the spinal column and the contact between the larynx and the cervical vertebrae.

Bone conduction has a special timber, rich, heady and colorful. It has an ethereal quality and seems to come from outside the body. It literally awakens the environment with a smooth, vibrant and dense sonority. It carries with ease.

What is more, when you have it nailed, this sound can be quickly modulated over the entire vocal range without costing you any effort.« 

center yourself to better concentrate

From her side, Dominique Hoppenot shows us how your downward letting-go sets free your internal vibration control.

The player knows how to observe himself breathing lower and deeper in order to pick up his sound at its source, at the very end of his natural inhaling : to achieve this, he internalizes his feeling at the bottom-point of the diaphragm and lets it propagate down to his heels.

The relaxation flows down to the effortless vibration starting with full grain and fat : this is sound laying.

« As for a singer, the violinist sound comes from inside. Your job is actually to free your sound, the sound that you virtually have, that is to say your voice.

There is nothing to search elsewhere than inside yourself.« 

« (…) you can never escape the inner searching of your sound, the “deep dive“, as the only process able to reveal your sound asa demonstration of your “being“.« 

« You must understand your emission as if it freed a latent sound, already internalized, a sound which can somehow spread in space without the aid of the bow.« 

« You should know how to wait until the last second before landing smoothly. (…) When you start a sound, you must precisely know how to stop it in every imaginable way.« 

« (…) seating and concentrating in your Hara are meant to radiate as much energy as possible to give maximum musical power to your tactile ends.« 

« The virtual center of this process – which is the true breathing center – is thus in the middle of the belly, and not at all in the chest containing the lungs (which are nonetheless the real physiological location of the breathing function !…).« 

« Concentrating is primarily going back to the center of the body and settling there, instead of being played by divergent and opposing forces.

Hara, from Eastern people, and especially the Japanese, is the crucial point of our body. Located at the lumbosacral junction, it coincides with our center of gravity. Hara is not a specific organ that could be located anatomically, but it is the physical area where our strength is concentrated, where our stability is anchored.

Being positioned means to settle in one’s Hara, together with one’s center, as the concentrum point.« 

« Concentrate on your diaphragm : you can feel it abasing itself while inhaling and pressing down on your viscera, then flexibly raising back up while you expire. You should unveil this focal point of your breathing, but how can you locate it ? Just feel the precise point where the pressure generated by the lowering-down diaphragm converges.

(…) at about 5 cm under your ombilic and 7 to 10 cm inside your belly.« 

« You should feel and watch the point where inhaling becomes exhaling, realizing that you do not actually work your inhaling out. Visualizing this process is the whole point« 


breathing and air

The Musician Sound Develops By His Breathing And Air

Targetting your breathing towards your internal vibration is key for your sound quality, and requires only a minimal air consumption.

Breathe, You Bet !

The inner motion driving your vibration towards your instrument comes from your sound center, the location and feeling of which you get accustomed to through watching yourself naturally breathing : air naturally surrounds you and your body spontaneously ingests it during your inhaling, thanks to your diaphragm action, released then by the muscles surrounding it.

Thorax

During the inhaling stage, it is recommended not to ingest more air than your body needs through the natural operation of its diaphragm, in order to ensure the fullness of the sound to come : in other words, do not voluntarily take in any air, as Alfred Tomatis states it in The Ear And The Voice.

« 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.« 

« 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.« 

singing in the open air

To sum it up,
– wanting to take some air would trigger contractions altering the depth of the air column vibrations (i.e. the sound spectrum) ;
– such contractions would subsequently disturb your air column : you would not be « sitting » in the air any more ;
– at the same time, more energy would be ill-advisedly consumed through those unwanted contractions, in order to achieve your musical speech up to your next inhaling :  your playing sequence would therefore last a shorter time and be less mastered than you would be able to achieve.

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

« 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.« 

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

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

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.

« You should actually concentrate on your self-letting go.« 

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

« 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.« 

When Your Internal Sensations Awaken

Hence, the best air quality is provided by a perfectly relaxed abdomen until the sound smoothly takes off, 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.

« 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. »

let your letting-go fall down !

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 ; his configuration then brings a strong support to the vibration carried on by the exhaling.

« 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 ballad. »

« 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. »

Unification of your body results from this attitude, all feelings above your diaphragm being ignored, as Dominique Hoppenot explains it in Le violon intérieur.

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

We can extend the analogy between the violin bow and the air column, as mentioned before, for the sound laying at its initial emission : the first push of the bow matches the air column beginning to vibrate, at the very moment when inhaling becomes exhaling, during the handover from the diaphragm to the transverse abdominus muscle.

« 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.« 

your sound comes from your whole body

Then, the conscious motion reaches to the seamless laying of the sound (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 Mathieu : to 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. 

« 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.« 

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 deep sound extends through your next exhaling.

« A true person breathes through his heels. »

« 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.« 

« 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 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.« 

« 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.« 

« 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. »

David Liebman  remembers these words from Joe Allard, the teacher master who made him discover his sound mastery :

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

And George Kochevistsky shows that knowing how to manage your vibration source means a minimal physical effort for your sound production :

« 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.« 


the posture

The Musician Sound And His Posture

The musician’s posture aims at easing his body and his instrument to merge together.

Your Body Gets In Line For Vibration

Visualize your roots and imagine them plunging into the ground, from the trunk of this virtual tree, represented by your air column – actually, your sound column. Here you are, straightened up (during your natural inhaling, your sound column gets aligned with your heels, making your pelvis slightly tilt to its equilibrium position), then let the central relaxation slide down to the ground, ending with your air column starting to vibrate thanks to your abdomen transverse muscle.

your voice widened by your posture

Alfred Tomatis highlights this body preparation in The Ear And The Voice.

« You sing through your body.
Singing is one of the most efficient ways to shape our body.« 

« (…) Before a sound is emitted, a primer should be fully elaborated, bringing its awareness of the “shaping“ of the body so that it can thereby acquire the postural pattern that suits it to become the instrument of singing.« 

« (…) a clearly-defined body image, specific to the singing act, must be ingested into you. It implies that a mental attitude be psychologically organized, that in turn drives a posture, which itself responds to a physiological complex function capable of resonating to vocal stimulation.« 

By linking natural inhalation to the letting-go from the diaphragm down to the ground, the sound column gets unleashed down to the roots of the virtual trunk of this imagined tree : its verticality fosters the optimal resonance of the singer’s or instrumentist’s body.

« We know that the vestibule processes the stimulation of every muscle in the body and sends the information to regulate upright posture, mobility and body movements.

« Impulses toward erect posture, muscle tone and movement create responses in the form of  information and stimulation emanating from the muscles, tendons, joints and even from the bones. This enormous excitation alone accounts for the increased tone that leads to movement, good balance and good posture.

« The listening posture requires that the spinal column be well aligned and standing tall along its vertical axis following its natural curves.« 

« When you are able to control while maintaining your listening posture, your body literally stretches up, aiming at a rather unusual verticality. (…) From this point, your pelvis begins to tilt forward while you stand and show a tendency to slightly bend the knees (…)« 

« Your sacrum seems to settle such as you feel to sit comfortably on your own pelvis. (…) Your lower ribs are spaced at maximum, your diaphragm finds its greatest extension, and its amplitude range will thus be facilitated, your abdominal muscles will be stretched without excess, synergistically acting together with the diaphragm. You need not bend these muscles.« 

« (…) thanks to the posture of listening and self-listening, and thanks to the global posture, the body will follow in order to deliver all proprioceptive sensations that govern verticality (…)« 

Your Body Blends Into Your Instrument

Transverse_FRYou feel like sitting on the sound source, in your Hara which drives your posture (as Marie-Christine Mathieu shows it), and at this time only, your instrument comes into play, amplifying the vibrating sound. Then, as you are stalled on the belt-shaped transverse abdominus muscle surrounding this center point, you end up forgetting all about the upper part of your body (above the diaphragm).

« The problems affecting most saxophonists are often self-inflicted. By that, I mean unnecessary bodily tensions accumulate over time and become habitualized. This results in the player’s inability to relax enough to find a physically comfortable and aesthetically pleasing tone. »

your posture facing the piano

If you are a standing-up player, your playing position should embody your actual rooting, making your vertical sound column deeply flow into the ground. In order to assess this verticality, you may picture yourself as being seated on your pelvis, centered on your sound source : so downward-packed, locked on your heels and forgetting about the upper part of your body, your vibration easily takes off.

Such an attitude is also relevant to the piano player, who can picture his virtual verticality down to his heels, while being physically sitting on his stool, delving his feet into the ground.

in his Art Of Piano PlayingGeorge Kochevitsky shows how the arms should be forgotten to free the player technique.

« (…) two other ideas occupied the representatives of the anatomic-physiological school : weight playing and relaxation (…)« 

« { In 1905, Rudolf Maria Breithaupt (1873-1945) published Die Natürliche Klaviertechnik. } Breithaupt, a fervent proponent of this idea, proclaimed that the most important principle of technique was a loose and heavy arm (…) In the third edition of the same book he wrote that the ultimate ideal of artistic performance is predominance of the spirit over the body, liberation from the material, the overcoming of the pull of gravity : only a fine sense of balance is left from the latter… It goes without saying that in the cases of greatest speed the weight seems almost eliminated.« 

the freed up violin

The musician’s inner vibration is transmitted to the instrument-amplifier from his body posture through the pianist’s fingers, through the embouchure of the woodwind player, through the lips of the trumpet player, through the clavicle (not embarrassed by a cushion which inhibits the vibration) of the violinist : this transmitter link must be as little constrained as possible, to free the optimal resonance of the instrument.

Dominique Hoppenot uses these words about the balance fundamentals :

« It is a pity to spend a life of toil and research ignoring that all difficulties with the sound, the disjointed hand, vibrato, hopped, staccato, etc… are nearing resolution as soon as the perfect balance of the body is achieved.« 

« What matters is the overall balance of the body, the general feeling experienced within your body, and not an isolated gesture or detail, observed from the outside.« 

« When the momentum and the opposition forces are fully developed, there can be no tightening and no exaggerated support, no more than voluntary effort to hold the instrument.« 

Then your head and limbs should freely move :

« No motion of your head should go and pick up the violin as if it were an object outside the body ; it does come to your body without changing your posture for all that.« 

« The purpose of consciously non-holding the instrument is to totally free the sensitivity of your fingers, which you feel as talking and “telling“ the music directly out of our mouth.« 

« (…) you must always understand that every action involves your whole body, through its static as well as dynamic behavior.« 

Your actual trunk becomes insensitive (without any move of your shoulders or of your thorax), and although you feel downward-packed, you get aware of your complementary zones, contributing to the sound production :
– your head, merged with the embouchure which is ideally visualized at the lowest level, down to your heels ;
– your upper limbs, ending and merging with the instrument itself ;
– your abdomen, like sucked up by the sound source (Hara),
– your lower limbs, becoming your actual roots, spreading the sound through the ground and space.

« Our whole energy actually arises from our center of gravity : it is located at the level of the third lumbar vertebra, area that eastern people call “Hara”.« 

« It is essential that the supporting muscles – especially those located in your back – fully play their part, freeing your arms ends from overload, providing them with the necessary independence and lightness and giving to your arms a flexibility unknown before.« 

« (…) such a freedom is available only when technical problems are mastered, when you develop a full confidence in the result, and especially when the musical flow spreads through your body, without finding any obstacle by any constraint or unwanted tension.« 

« For the artist, relaxation is an absolute necessity. »

Rooting Starts From The Pelvis

Going back to the woodwind player, his embouchure should be flexible enough so that the internal vibration fully propagates to the reed, while his instrument remains well-balanced on his well-grounded body.

« Focus your mind on your back muscles working, while your air flows ; you will get your balance and keep your verticality, thanks to the action of these muscles.« 

« Your head and your body merge together.
Your feet push the ground, following your inhaling.« 

« The balance of the standing body builds up from the pelvis, not from the lower limbs.« 


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)

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)