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How to Do Circular Breathing

Hemangi Harankhedkar Jul 26, 2020
Circular breathing is a breathing technique, generally used by players of various musical instruments to produce an uninterrupted sound. Learn how to do it, in this story.
Circular breathing is one such technique generally followed by the players of various wind instruments, like the didgeridoo, launeddas and the Egyptian arghul. It is also used in playing the traditional wind instruments of Asia, like the flute, and is also followed by some jazz music players.

Learning

Let's first understand our breathing pattern in brief. During the breathing process, we take in air through the nostrils, the air then passes through the lungs, and is stored there for a few seconds before we again exhale the air through the nose.
Circular breathing in short, is a breathing technique. You must surely have observed the puffed cheeks of musicians. Take for example, a musician playing the trumpet. The puffing of cheeks at regular intervals is necessary because the trumpet player has to perform continuously without any kind of gap in the tone of sound.
The method followed in this technique in simple words is like - breathe normally, when the lungs are partially filled with air, store the air in the cheeks some way and then blow this air out through the mouth into the instrument to produce the sound.
The lungs generally run short of air, and so a reserve of air is required. The cheeks serve this purpose but it's not as simple as it sounds. The technique can be mastered only with relentless practice. Circular breathing is actually taking in air when the exhalation is still on. Let's look how this technique works, in the subsequent paragraphs.
Before jumping to practice the technique using some musical instrument, it is better to practice using some simple techniques. Breathe normally, as you breath in, the lungs are filled with air, when the lungs become partially empty because of exhalation, try filling the cheeks with air.
As the air from the cheeks is blown out to the instrument, start inhalation through the nose again. This is the key point which needs practice. The following points would help in practicing the technique.
  • The main aim of circular breathing is reserving air in the cheeks, and the musician or person uses this air when the lungs run out of air, or are partially filed with air.
  • When you know that the lungs are running out of air, puff your cheeks, and with the help of the cheek muscles, use this air to blow the instrument.
  • You should simultaneously inhale air through the nose, to replenish the lungs.
The process keeps on repeating, and helps the musician to perform for hours.

Practicing

As mentioned earlier, breathing this way is not at all easy, especially if you want to play a wind instrument for hours. So proper training is very essential.
Learn these simple techniques if you wish to enhance your ability in playing your favorite instruments, like the enchanting flute and the didgeridoo.
  • When you are breathing normally, puff the cheeks. Try breathing with puffed cheeks for some time and jump to the second step once you have mastered the breathing pattern mentioned in this step.
  • When you play any wind instrument, you have to blow some air softly in it, without losing the air in the cheeks at once. So practice it by keeping a small gap between the lips and breathing in and out through the nose. At first, this step is a bit tough to follow, as you lose the air in the cheeks at once.
  • Now practice using an instrument, and start exhaling the air through your mouth, rather than the nose.

Exercises

The main aim of these exercises is improving the working of the cheek muscles and tongue, in the breathing process, because you have to blow the air in the mouth using only the cheek muscles, and to some extent, the tongue.
  • Using Water: Be relaxed. Fill your mouth with water and bend your head backwards, bring it to the normal position and now breath normally, with water still in your mouth. Do this exercise for only a couple of minutes.
  • Using Water and Straw: Take a glass of water and a narrow long straw. Hold the straw in between your lips and blow air bubbles using only the cheek muscles. Make sure you are not using pressure generated from the lungs. Practice this slowly, and when you are running out of air, breath in air through the nose.
Practice is the key to circular breathing. This is just a technique used by musical instrument players, and as such there is no 'health benefits' aspect to this breathing technique.