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The Importance of Proper Breathing While Playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by CJK84, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I don't believe I've ever seen this topic on the electric bass forum so I thought I'd bring it up.

    Having studied the exercise-and-body-awareness fitness approach named Pilates, I've become aware that I tend to hold my breath when doing any action that is difficult (e.g., lifting a heavy object).

    Holding my breath happens naturally and unconsciously. but it's counterproductive to relaxed, efficient movement because it promotes muscular tension (whereas exhaling encourages relaxation).

    I believe this is a viable area of study for musicians. If a difficult passage on the bass, for instance, causes you to catch and hold your breath, you're probably creating unnecessary tension and limiting your ability (as I believe that I sometimes am).

    When playing, I'm trying to heighten my awareness of my breathing so that I'm as aware of my inhalations/exhalations as I am the tension in my hands, forearms, etc...

    Any other bassists focusing on breathing?
  2. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    It's true what you say. I've been focusing on being more relaxed when I record something, because I've noticed I mess up easily otherwise and it's easy to lose the groove that way. I tend to dig in much more to the groove now when I record something, just to prevent myself from holding my breath unconsciously.
  3. phippsyg


    May 28, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Optima Strings
    I make a point of teaching my students about this. I have probably become more aware of it myself through yoga, simialr to how you have. I have one student who plays a line (we have been working on billies bounce), then takes a massive breath in between phrases. You can defineatly see the tension it creates, technique and otherwise.
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    My breathing when I play is often regulated by singing. But when I'm not playing, I just breathe normally. I don't think I have any rhythm to it. I just inhale when I need air and I exhale when I've used it.

    Arthur Kane, who played bass for the New York Dolls, couldn't breathe and play at the same time. David Johansen said he'd take a big gulp of air and play until he ran out.
  5. TheMutt

    TheMutt Guest

    Apr 28, 2007
    Same here. Usually if I am singing, I take in breath when I need to. (usually in the same "breath space" as the lead singer) If I am more active on stage, then my breathing is a bit more fast-paced, and does not follow any particular beat except that of my heart. But if I am not singing or jumping around, I have noticed that my breathing tends to follow the groove and keeps me relaxed and on with the timing.
  6. this might sound weird but i seem to sharply exhale during a complicated phrase n then hold my breath until its done :confused:
  7. Heh, I have this strange habit by breathing together with the rythm I am playing. Same goes for when I'm listening to music generally
  8. Haha, can't say I have any trouble breathing when playing, but I'm not all that sure about whether I hold my breath or what, so I think I'll test that!

    Apparently it's not good to listen to fast music while you eat, because you begin to chew in rhythm. Dunno if it's totally true, but I've sure noticed myself doing it :)

    Chesh :D
  9. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    I suggest not listening to Napalm Death in your situation, unless you can find a good fractional tempo to breathe at.
  10. louieeadg

    louieeadg uncle petey?

    Jun 13, 2007
    outer banks, nc
    Mark Twain once said that listening to music while you eat is both an injustice to the chef and the violinst.

    Oh yeah, and breathing is good. +20
  11. Scot


    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Good topic.

    When I was younger I noticed I had funny breathing habits when playing. I used to also tend to hold my breath when playing something more difficult, etc. I tried for a while to focus on my breathing and ended up sometimes doing the breathing in rhythm with the music thing. That seemed equally as weird because it seemed to put so much focus on breathing and not enough on the music. In the end, I just learned to relax (and have fun) while playing and all the breathing weirdness went away. Like the others said, I do have to focus on when I'm taking breaths while singing but that also tends to be natural when I'm relaxed.

    I don't think too much focus on breathing when playing is a good thing but relaxing while playing (and singing) is huge.
  12. nastyn8c


    Feb 7, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    I had never thought about it until a couple of years ago when I realized that I was constantly experiencing pain while playing. I was looking into remedies, and along with warming up better, chewing gum, and relaxing, breathing came up.

    Breathing right has helped me relax and focus on my playing.
  13. I have never really thought about it much, but I have noticed that I always breath in time.


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