Circular Breathing

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    Terry B. Ewell

    I have created some videos on circular breathing that many might find useful. Please see:


    Does anyone else on the list have experience with circular breathing they want to share?

    Trent Jacobs

    I learned to circular breathe a few years ago, but with almost never any need to do it, I’m still not particularly good at it. I learned more or less by trial and error after I learned the basic principle of how it was done. I impress my non musical friends and younger undergraduates with my water-spurting-while-breathing-in demonstration. I guess the point is that for me it is simply a parlor trick.

    I can do it on a sustained note, and even then on only certain registers of the instrument that provide the right level of resistance, usually only in the tenor register. Forget circular breathing on low D or something…. What I’m impressed by, and I assume this only comes with practice, is circular breathing while changing notes like in a technical passage (ala the performance of Flight of the Bumblebee that I’m sure we’re all familiar with thanks to YouTube. – wink wink, Mr. Ewell.).

    I will definitely take a look at those videos when I have a little more time and can mess around with a bassoon in my hands.

    Neville Forsythe

    A strategy used by a visiting Recorder teacher / performer taking a Cirular Breathing Workshop in Christchurch NZ a few years ago was highly entertaining as well as effective. He had each player blowing a continuous stream of bubbles in a tumbler of water using a simple drinking straw.

    No issues of additional technical issues such as managing a reed or avoiding “hiccups” of sound. those could be explored later once the purely bodily aspects were sorted.

    It also gave a visual evidence of the continuity of air flow – and in an environment of group fun. THe sort of activity for a music camp group session.


    Drew Keller

    I taught myself circular breathing using a method similar to the one Neville describes. It’s good to grasp the basic feeling of it without the expectation that the tone will remain unchanged. Starting out immediately with a reed and oboe can be intimidating, and I’ve seen very advanced players quickly become convinced that it’s something they just can’t do. By blowing bubbles in a beverage with a straw, you can sit around and practice circular breathing for hours while you watch TV. But, as an oboist, I recommend pinching the straw with the fingers so that the opening is more like that of an oboe reed. Gradually work toward keeping the bubbles going throughout an entire episode of your favorite TV show. When you can go an hour without a conventional breath, you’re more than ready to try it out on the oboe.


    Trent Jacobs

    Just watched the first and third videos. The second video does not seem to be working for me (the MP4 file, I don’t have Real Player on this Mac). You might want to double check that.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see that you took it apart step by step. I’ve not thought of it in four steps, only three, but the more you can break it down the better when teaching someone. This has inspired me to ask our studio prof (Tim McGovern) if he would let me do a circular breathing demo for a studio class presentation. If I do that I’ll have to practice a bit more.

    Mr. Forsythe, I will totally steal the water in a cup and straw idea, thanks for that!

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