Breathing and support, a few concepts

Hello Mr Friedland,

I’m 14 years old and I’m from Singapore. I would like to know more about what it means by “air and breathing support”.

1) Firstly, I found it difficult to produce beautiful sound on the altissisimo(?)(topmost) register, sometimes I would squeak or there would be some tuning problems. After much practices, I realised I have improved slightly. However, I would like to know if there is any proper method, or any tips that you can give for further improvements. I heard of a suggestion to use of ‘air and breathing support’, but can you perhaps explain a little bit more? Will it help?
2) Nextly, I found it difficult to sustain long passages without having to breathe in the middle. After looking at the article of circular breathing, I decided not to learn it just then. So is there any exercises that can improve this situation?
3) Tuning. I realised that my instrument is generally sharp.(Buffet RC-prestige?, reed 3) I tried to extend the barrel by a bit and relaxed my embouchure, however, it doesn’t help really much. My band instructor told me to use air and breathing support, and listen. I have tried, but still found it difficult to tune with my friends. Do you have any suggestions?
4) My band conductor keeps telling us about “air and breathing support”. Is it really important? Or perhaps, can you explain a little bit more?

Thank you so much for the wonderful website!


Thank you for your note and the questions about breathing and support. Of course, these are essential to good playing, however it is more in just how you think of them when you play the clarinet.
One idea which helps many students is to consider the clarinet with a paper bag attached to the bell. One must breathe and support as if to blow up the bag with air as one plays. It cannot be done of course, but it is the thought that will help in establishing correct breathing .

As far as difficulty in sustaining long phrases, the clarinet is a wind instrument, as we know. In order to sustan long phrases we must learn to find places to take a breath within the phrase. This is part of the art of learning to play this instrument. You will find the logic in phrasing as you improve your technic. Remember to always mark the places within the phrase where you can breath without disturbing the line, and art unto itself.

If you are playing constantly sharp, it may be the clarinet or possibly the mouthpiece. It depends upon who is determining the center of pitch. Who gives the tning note in your ensemble? Are you the only one who plays sharp. Try pulling out your barrel or sometimes the barrel and the first joint.
Without hearing and seeing you play it is difficult to tell where exactly the problem is.

Also, when you play in the altissima of the clarinet, you should take care that you do not bite in order to get the note, do not play too loudly and do not practise in that register for too long.

Some say that breathing and supporting the sound of clarinet we use fast air,not slow air. This of course, is a concept to assist you, not necessarily to be taken literally.

It is also important that you have a teacher who plays and who can give you examples of the kind of playing he wants you to adopt.

I hope that this has helped you to establish the sound you wish to achieve.
Sherman Friedland


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