Robert Estrin - piano expert

What Does "Breath" in Musical Notation Mean?

Learn a very basic concept of the music language

In this video, Robert explains a very basic concept of the musical language: The Breath.

Released on July 2, 2014

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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

Robert Estrin: Hi and welcome to and I'm your host Robert Estrin. Today's question is, "What is meant by breath in music.?" You've heard this term before and you might think it doesn't make sense on instruments like the piano. Well, actually it does. We're going to talk about this.

You know music is based upon song. Singing is the first instrument and all musical instruments, to some extent, are evocative of the human voice. Naturally, wind instruments have the breath just like the voice does. But even when string players, violinists and cellists, and such play, they want to have a sense of the breath because this beauty of the naturalness of the music, it comes down to the breath and you must have that sense of the piano, too, where the phrase rises and falls just like a breath does, and then at the end have a time to take a new breath. It's a very natural thing and you think about it almost everything in life is based upon cycles.

You know every moment you are alive you're breathing so it's such a natural part of living that to have art that is music. It has to be reflected in what you play and what you hear and it's not just your breath, by the way. Cycles are everywhere around you. Sit by the ocean and listen to those waves wafting, it's very soothing, isn't it? It's very natural from the time that you're first conceived, even before you're out of the womb, you're hearing breaths and heartbeats. Every day the sun comes up and goes down. Everything is cyclical in life that you perceive. The breath is such a natural part you cannot detach it from living and, therefore, it must be present in your music.

But in the nitty-gritty, how it affects the way you play, as if you're playing the musical line, you pretend you're singing it. And, in fact, I encourage all instrumentalists to sing. Sing your music and you'll understand the concept of the breath, and you will then play your music as if you're taking breaths and playing your phrases, and you'll sound much more intuitive and organic. So that's a great question. I'm glad to answer these questions for you. Once again, I'm Robert Estrin here at and Thanks for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

John Brooks on May 10, 2017 @7:54 am PST
Hi Robert,
Your article on "breath" is good. It would be helpful if you would play a few lines showing how "breathing" works.
Also, for those that want to try it: put your favorite book (author) on the music stand and "play" some of his/her sentences. After a few lines you will hear and feel the idea of breathing.
Robert Estrin - host, on May 11, 2017 @10:49 am PST
That is an excellent topic for a future video - thank you!
Benjamin on July 9, 2014 @3:32 am PST
Tnx Robert , great lesson
George Goodwine on July 5, 2014 @6:55 am PST
I know professional piano players make mistakes but you rarely hear them. How do they disguise them?
Robert Estrin - host, on July 7, 2014 @10:25 am PST
This is such a great question, I want to answer it in a future video for you.
Chaim on July 2, 2014 @6:16 am PST
Great concept
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