You forgot to breathe... again.

Your intention had been to breathe while playing. Because you know it feels better. Because you know your sound is richer, fuller.

And here it is again. You forgot.

You may start realizing that good intentions don't work here.

But don't get discouraged, you're in good company. It happens to many of us.

Good intentions during a performance divide our attention - we have to think about them in order to fulfil them.

Like in the example, we have to think about breathing during playing.

But it'll never work - thinking about something while we're making music never leads to a fully present performance. And it's not fun, either.

For it to work, there can't be one single thing parallel to the music. Everything has to be integrated in or part of our playing. So that our attention is 100% where we want it to be in the first place: making music.

So how can we integrate breathing into our playing?

Instead of focussing on the end result (breathing during playing), try experimenting with one of the key factors of breathing: a relaxed and lose jaw, tongue and lips.

Here's a Resonance Training exercise for a relaxed jaw:

1. Open your jaw slowly and gently, feeling the weight of the jaw. Open a lot, but don't go to the maximum possibility. Just open and remember to keep breathing.

2. Let your jaw and neck muscles go and let the jaw return by itself, slowly and smoothly.

3. You will notice that by itself, the jaw doesn't close (if it closed, your teeth would touch) - instead, the jaw will stop just before that point, all by itself.

4. And this is the exercise - to find this natural stop of the jaw. Repeat the exercise several times, noticing the movement, noticing your breath.

5. Just be there with your relaxed jaw, in this natural stop you found. Part your lips a little. Feel your lips. Feel your tongue, feel your jaw.

Now, with this feeling - start playing. Don't try to play perfect. Just play, feeling your relaxed jaw.

While you play, maybe your tendency is to lock the lips and the jaw again.

And notice that when you part your lips again, your body takes a new breath. You are simply allowing to take a new breath. You are not doing it.

In the midst of all this, your playing might be disturbed, there might be wrong notes, etc. But maybe you will also feel a sense of physical relief in your body, and maybe also a sense of freedom, underneath the chaos.

With time, you can learn to integrate this feeling in your playing. One way would be to repeat the jaw exercise every day before practice.

When the body integrates something, there's nothing to think about. Nothing is separate from playing, from music. And you are there, 100%. That's something worth your valuable practice time.

And that's what we want as musicians. This is not about breathing. This is about freedom on stage. We want this freedom, 100%, no matter how high the stakes. We want to deliver and not suffer from the pressure. And maybe even - gasp - enjoy the process.

Maria Busqué teaches Resonance Training, a way for musicians to find more ease and flow in their playing/singing, while having a richer sound, full of resonance. She's based in Berlin and combines this work with her career as a harpsichord player. Visit her HelloStage profile, her website or connect with her on Twitter.


Author: Maria Busqué
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