As we've discussed previously on this blog, proper breathing is incredibly important for achieving a beautiful, well-blended sound. For marching band students, it's also necessary to keep from getting faint from lack of air during performances, especially in the summer. According to Deanna Swoboda of the Dallas Brass, correct breathing technique provides for a "smooth, even and constant air stream," which allows the instrument to create the best tone possible.
Here are some breathing exercises to help your students understand and become accustomed to good breathing:
- Metered breath: Turn on a metronome to the tempo of one of the songs you'll be performing and have students breathe in for four counts and out for four counts, then vary the number of beats. This helps players learn to time their breaths to the rhythm of the music.
- The inflatable tube man: Have students flop forward like one of those inflatable tube people you see at car dealerships (like this one) that's been deflated, letting their arms and head hang down in front of them. Then, have them take big, deep breaths. They should be able to feel and see their upper body rising and falling with the intake of air. This exercise helps students more viscerally experience and visualize what it means to take a deep breath.
- Palm monitor: Have students hold out their palms about 6 inches away from their mouths and "play" one of their pieces with breath only, including all the articulations and taking breaths in the right places. The feeling of the air hitting the palm will help students maintain a smooth, constant air stream.