Vigilant Teacher: “I’ll be watching you.”
Nervously-Smiling Student: “Um, creepy?”
Friendly-but-Firm Teacher: “Creepy? No. Intense? Maybe. But this is the only way I can ensure you have stopped inhaling through your nose. Unless you want to try the clothes peg again.”
Wide-Eyed Student Jumps In: “No, no. No way. Even with that thin cloth covering my nose, the peg left two red marks. And it hurt!”
Teacher begins to play air violin while humming the theme to The Godfather. “I feel your pain. But we all must suffer for our art at some point.”
Student looks unimpressed.
Pulling the bow over a long note, Teacher says, “No pain, No gain.”
Student looks glum.
“Or,” says Smiling Teacher, dropping the bow, “You can just let me watch.”
Resigned Student: “Yeah. Go ahead. Watch.”
In everyday life—and yoga—breathing through your nose is best. However, to be efficient and comfortable while playing the saxophone, you must inhale through your mouth.
Mouth Yes. Nostrils No.
Even if you flared your nostrils—amuse toi bien—the overall surface area of those openings is small. Fully opening your mouth, on the other hand, is much better. It allows for a greater intake of air. It’s quicker.
Just try it. Blow out. Take a full inhalation through your nostrils. Release. Now take a full inhalation through your mouth. Which way was faster?
Here are some exercise to bolster your technique. Please try these at home!
Open your mouth as widely as possible while you stick your tongue out. Roaring absolutely essential. The added bonus? Your facial muscles get a rejuvenating stretch. Objective: Opening your mouth wide.
Place a paper roll (bathroom tissue, paper towel) between your teeth and inhale. Objective: Opening up the throat.
Bend your elbows and place your hands around your rib cage, spreading out your fingers, thumbs at the back. Inhale deeply and feel your skeleton expand. Objective: Rib cage expansion.
Put the mouthpiece in your mouth, forming the embouchure. Keep your teeth in place while you open your mouth, pulling the corners back as widely as possible. Inhale. Objective: Big inhalation with mouthpiece in position.
Later that week, in the privacy of your bedroom, you recall those zany inhalation exercises. Probably useless. Still, what if they work? You try them all and then play a short étude. World of Wonders. Without even trying you take deeper breaths and fewer of them. Your phrases sound smooth. So smooth. Yet energized. They seem to be pushing themselves forward. And all it took was opening up wide and inhaling with purpose. You smile and think to yourself, it’s good to be high—on oxygen.