Without controlling airflow it is impossible to play well.  Brass instruments are fueled by focused air which creates the buzz. 

Air-flow heavily influences how high, low, loud, soft, expressively (musically) you can play, how long you can play a phrase and how the instrument will sound.

Controlling airflow effectively will have a huge impact on your range.

Breathing in

Exercise: Empty your lungs completely.  Wait without breathing in.  Then open your mouth allowing the air to simply flow in.  It will flow in automatically. Breathing is an automatic process.  

Breath in in a relaxed way to fill the lungs completely.  Avoid hasty, sudden breathing with tension.  With each breath, take in as much air as you would need to stay under water for as long as you can.

Fill your lungs from the bottom up using your diaphragm or core: –

In one seamless motion perform these 2 steps;

  1. Breath in as deeply as possible – pushing your stomach out.
  2. Then fill the top of your chest without lifting your shoulders which can cause tension – keep relaxed. Expand your chest in every direction.

Keep your arms away from your body. Allow your chest to expand.

Tip:  Top up your lungs with air at every opportunity.  Air is free, you don’t need to pay for it.  Fill your lungs completely just before playing a note or phrase.  When your lungs and chest are at their maximum stretch, they naturally want to recoil which adds additional energy to your focused air.   Full lungs allow you to play powerfully with an energized air-stream.

Breathing is a reflex – don’t over think it – just fill your lungs completely.

Breathing out

Focus the air on the way out.  Maintain the energy and focus until all the air runs out to keep control of your instrument.  Don’t playing on empty.  Avoid holding the air in; breath in just before exhaling.

Tip: More airflow produces more volume; however,
Higher air speed raises the pitch.

Push the air out to create a pressured air-stream – push even harder with your core muscles as the notes get higher – bear down even harder to create more pressure to produce faster air.

Developing a consistent airflow

A player should develop the ability to maintain a consistent airflow which will produce a consistent sound throughout each note.

Exercise: Keep a pin-wheel moving by focused blowing.  Use this concept to play smooth legato passages with a continuous sound.  
controlling airflow

Controlling airflow – an example

To see someone with excellent air control, watch trombone master Dave Steinmeyer play this outstanding feature. Watch carefully how often he breathes throughout this piece. His control of air is astonishing.

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