Circular breathing

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Circular breathing is a technique used by players of some wind instruments to produce a continuous tone without interruption. This is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously blowing out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks.

It is used extensively in playing the Australian didgeridoo, the Sardinian launeddas and Egyptian arghul, as well as many traditional oboes and flutes of Asia and the Middle East. A few jazz and classical wind players also utilize some form of circular breathing.

Although many professional wind players find circular breathing highly useful, few pieces of European orchestral music composed before the 20th century actually require its use. However, the advent of circular breathing among professional wind players has allowed for the transcription of pieces originally composed for string instruments which would be unperformable on a wind instrument without the aid of circular breathing. A notable example of this phenomenon is "Moto Perpetuo," transcribed for trumpet by Rafael Méndez from the original work for violin by Paganini.

Saxophonist Kenny G is perhaps the world's most famous circular breather, setting a world record for holding a single note for more than 45 minutes.[1] This record was nearly doubled by Costa Rican saxophonist Geovanny Escalante less than a year later.[2]


[edit] Method

The person inhales fully and begins to exhale and blow. When the lungs are nearly empty, the last volume of air is blown into the mouth, and the cheeks are inflated with this air. Then, while still blowing this last bit of air out by allowing the cheeks to deflate, the person must very quickly fill the lungs by inhaling through the nose prior to running out of the air in the mouth. If done correctly, by the time the air in the mouth is nearly exhausted the person can begin to exhale from the lungs once more, ready to repeat the process again.

Physiologically, the process is similar to drinking at a water fountain and taking a breath of air while water remains in the mouth, without raising the head from the water stream. The body "knows" to not allow water into the lungs. It is this same instinct that a circular breather uses to play their instrument.[citation needed]

One learning technique is to try puff out the cheeks with mouth closed using only air drawn in through the nose.

[edit] Instruments having circular breathing as an integral part of their technique

[edit] Musicians known for circular breathing

Some musicians who do not play the instruments mentioned above are known for using circular breathing.

[edit] References

  1. ^ News on Yahoo! Music
  2. ^ Reuters (via
  3. ^ "Daniel Goode: About". Retrieved on 2008-06-26. 
  4. ^ University of Chicago
  5. ^ "Roscoe Mitchell Interview". Perfect Sound Forever. May 1998. Retrieved on 2008-06-26. 
  6. ^ BBC Radio 3 profile
  7. ^ "Irvin Mayfield: Hombre of Hot Music and Vital Education". 2004-08-30. Retrieved on 2008-06-26. 

[edit] External links

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