Why pianists need to learn how to breathe...

As I mentioned in my last post, I'll be expanding a few bullet points on different aspects of collaborative piano. 

How many times have you gone to a piano recital and heard a Mozart sonata (for example) and thought "well, that was very well done, but did the pianist take a real breath during the entire piece?" One hears a contrast of dynamic, character, and perhaps tempo among various themes and sections, but how often do you feel a real breath between phrases? 

This is something I notice quite frequently, and working with singers and choral directors is one way to address the issue.  Breathing correctly does a number of things for any musician; it brings in oxygen (always important), defines tempo and character when working in a group, and ideally provides a regular release of tension throughout the body.  Here are a couple tips for breathing which are specific to pianists:

(1) Release your lower back.  This is a very tense spot for many pianists, but when you breathe deeply in a relaxed manner (try laying down on your face, for instance)  you will notice the muscles in your lower back let go.  Trust gravity rather than back/thigh muscles to hold you on the bench!

(2) Practice singing and conducting your music, complete with breathing at phrase breaks and other appropriate spots.  Get a feel for how the music moves freely through space and time.  Then, when you move back to playing the music, remember that freedom!

Does anyone else have a thought?  I'd love to start a conversation among pianists about this (well, about lots of things), and I welcome your comments. 

Richard FountainComment