Thursday, December 19, 2013

Play with a Pro does it again - breathing revelations

Ever since launched I have been singing their praises, as it quickly turned into one of the most valuable teaching resources I have ever used. Also for my own playing it gave me access to teachers who I would never have met and helped me make new progress on the bassoon and contra bassoon. There is one area that I have continued to research which I hadn’t found covered ANYWHERE on the web or in print in a way I could instantly use and that was “breathing”. I had breakthrough moments of course, from different discussions with my Alexander technique teacher Fiona Bryan and with other players of wind and brass instruments. One big breakthrough was talking with one of the trumpet players in the Ulster orchestra about Kristian Steenstrup and the teaching he was doing following on from the teachings of Arnold Jacobs (tuba legend). I had come across and more recently read the biography of Arnold Jacobs by Brian Frederiksen. Then thanks to Patrick McCarthy in Belfast blowing on a strange tube with a ping pong ball and cylinder in the green room before an Ulster Orchestra concert I was lead to the book “Teaching Brass” by Kristian Steenstrup. This book filled in so many gaps and gave me fundamentals that made sense and stripped away years of strange ideas of “which muscle shall I contract to blow”. I started using these ideas myself and in my teaching but still felt I needed more practical guidance. I even got some of the devices I saw on the Windsongpress site (found them on along with their Flow Ball that I have been using in teaching for over a year).

Then a few days ago Adam Simonsen (founder of sent me news of these new breathing videos where Steenstrup puts it all into action. I watched them straight away as I hoped they would be the missing key for me. And they are.

In the main video, Adam is taken through the principles of Kristian’s teaching and shown the various aids that he uses (some of which I already have but didn’t quite understand how to USE). Adam asks all the questions and runs into all the confusions of ideas that I myself have had (and am sure other wind players have) so it was a great way to present the information. Then at the end of these videos we are given a whole exercise routine to do with Kristian. Finally each set has a live masterclass with an instrumentalist. You get to choose which bundle you download so that it applies to your instrument but to be honest I have learned as much from watching the brass players and other wind players as I have from the bassoon player. The most striking thing for all of them is the instant improvement in sound and the delight on their faces on how easy it is if you get the breathing right!

Once again there is plenty of time to “try before you buy” as there are clips of all the videos on Youtube (though carefully edited so that you need to see the full video!).

Just in time for Christmas, these videos are too good to miss. Here’s to happy blowing in 2014!