Robert Estrin - piano expert
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How to Breathe While Playing The Piano

Learn what "breathing" means in piano playing

In this video, Robert tells you how to breathe while playing your piano. That's right! Even though a pianist doesn't blow into their instrument, they must breathe in a certain way for the best performance results.

Released on September 2, 2015

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to Virtual Sheet Music. I'm Robert Estrin. Today's question is how to deal with breathing while playing the piano. You might think this would be a more appropriate topic for the flute show. After all, piano is not a wind instrument. What does breathing have to do with the piano?

Well, a great deal as we'll discover. Well, obviously we all have to breathe all the time just to maintain ourselves, but what is it about breathing during performance? Well, there's a couple of components to this I'm going to discuss. For one thing, let's say you're playing a very technical-oriented piece, one that has great physical demands.

Let's say you're playing the Military Polonaise or Chopin. Now that's just the beginning and that piece goes on and on and on and almost the whole thing is loud. It takes a lot of energy. You might need to remind yourself to take some nice deep breathes because you might become winded not even realize it because during a musical performance, there's so much on your mind. There's the audience out there. You might also be hyper-aware of yourself and maybe feelings of nerves and whatever, and indeed you may forget to breathe. Before a big section or during some very technical music, it's very important to remember to breathe.

Now the other aspect of this is just to be able to be relaxed enough to be able to be comfortable with your breathing throughout all your playing. Sometimes in chamber music, in fact, the breath of the pianist is what guides the piano trio for the other musicians to be able to know where to play, where a phrase ends. Have you ever noticed when you watch great chamber groups, sometimes they all seem to breathe together even when they're playing piano and stringed instruments?

This is another aspect of breathing during performance as a way to communicate with other musicians, the breath because it's such a natural part of music that even though we're playing an instrument that doesn't require the breath, you want to feel the breath in your music. This is an important component as well. This doesn't just apply to piano naturally. Wind instruments have no choice but to take deep breaths before every phrase, but on all instruments whether it's string instruments, piano, percussion, having that nice breathing to keep you relaxed and in the moment.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks so much for the questions. Once again Robert Estrin here at VirtualSheetMusic.com.
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Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on September 9, 2015 @6:00 am PST
Having played trumpet for many years, it just comes naturally to me to breathe the phrases that I play on piano (within reason: Some Bach pieces are literally breathless!) I think it helps my phrasing, and in any case it's a habit I don't really want to quit.
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Robert - host, on September 9, 2015 @11:16 am PST
Singing or playing a wind instrument helps to understand the natural ebb and flow of a musical phrase that results from playing with the breath. You are at a distinct advantage in understanding phrasing on the piano because of your trumpet playing.
paul plak * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @10:18 am PST
Hi Robert, shouldn't there be a close relation between the breathing and the musical phrasing ? After all, if you need to sing the melody, you're bound to have breathing points. Aren't they more or less good moments to breathe while playing the piano, after a phrase ends ?
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Robert - host, on September 2, 2015 @10:47 am PST
You can gain valuable insights singing your piano music. However, I wouldn't necessarily incorporate regular breathing of every phrase you play on the piano. Thinking the phrase and the breath will achieve the best results. Utilize your breathing to be as relaxed and prepared as possible as you play.
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