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#1 2007-12-24 17:20:08

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Circular breathing revisited.

I've decided to teach myself circular breathing on shakuhachi. We had a few topics on this before but they were mostly discussion on the role of it in traditional music. This time I'm posting to the technique board in hopes of getting tips and clues on how to get started. I've read through all the material I could find on the topic and started to practice this today. Not much luck so far but at least I got the idea down now.

Anyone who can do this on shakuhachi, could you post your thoughts on the subject? I'm very curious about the differences that exist between shakuhachi and other instruments. Most resources out there exist for western instruments and I'm guessing that this is a little bit different in some ways. Any practice tricks for shakuhachi in particular are also very welcome. I'm well aware that this isn't the kind of technique one should be practicing but I feel that it could help me to experiment with breathing in different ways that could eventually translate to better control of normal breathing. Besides, I need something to do between playing Sanya Sugagaki for the millionth time and annoying my girlfriend by practicing Kan no Chi with Ro fingering (is there a name for this note?).

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#2 2007-12-24 18:50:19

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

amokrun wrote:

Anyone who can do this on shakuhachi, could you post your thoughts on the subject?

I think I've already voiced my thoughts on the subject, but I'll mention them again because I think they kind of got lost in discussion saying it's too difficult, too frantic, or not useful for traditional music. All but the last of those is untrue, and I'm not even sure about that because maybe it could be useful for traditional music. I don't know traditional music so I can't say. However, with how easy circular breathing is on shakuhachi I'm kind of surprised that some traditional repertiore doesn't make use of it. In other cultures that have some kind of an instrument where circular breathing is relatively easy, it's used and the traditional music for that culture for that instrument cannot be played without employing it. I'm thinking mostly of Indonesian suling here, but I'm sure there are others.     

amokrun wrote:

I'm very curious about the differences that exist between shakuhachi and other instruments. Most resources out there exist for western instruments and I'm guessing that this is a little bit different in some ways. Any practice tricks for shakuhachi in particular are also very welcome.

The biggest difference is the degree of difficulty. Didjeridu is the instrument probably best known for circular breathing, it's also probably the easiest, but you have to develop the embouchure before you'll have much success. Balinese suling is pretty easy too, and there isn't any embouchure to develop because it's kind of a fipple flute. Shakuhachi in is harder to circular breath with than didjeridu and suling, but easier than western transverse flute. I also find it is easier than sax but I think that's because my embouchure isn't developed enough on sax. There are also some differences in what circular breathing techniques you can employ easily. After a straight smooth drone on didjeridu the next technique is a bounce breath where tone does stop between some percussive-like notes, but so briefly that it's not enough time to take a normal breath. In bounce breath you take a little air in between every one of those fast notes. I find this particular circular breathing technique to be very challenging on shakuhachi.

As far as tricks, I think the best one is to learn it on an easier instrument to do it with first. Since we're mostly interested in flutes here, Balinese suling is a good choice because they're very cheap and since you don't have to develop an embouchure you can work soley on the breathing. Once you learn it you'll naturally try to apply it to every wind instrument you pick up. Some will work easy and some won't, shakuhachi will work well enough that you'll be likely to work on it enough to get it working.       

amokrun wrote:

I'm well aware that this isn't the kind of technique one should be practicing

Why not?

amokrun wrote:

but I feel that it could help me to experiment with breathing in different ways that could eventually translate to better control of normal breathing. Besides, I need something to do between playing Sanya Sugagaki for the millionth time and annoying my girlfriend by practicing Kan no Chi with Ro fingering (is there a name for this note?).

I know. I don't know traditional music so without practicing long tones and circular breathing, I have no idea what I'd practice. My feeling is that it's about the sound and not the melody anyway, but that's just me. BTW, on my myspace website www.myspace.com/charleskoeppen the 2nd track is something I threw together mostly to demonstrate that circular breathing can be done on shakuhachi and doesn't lend towards a frantic sound. 

I'll add some more comments later if there is any interest.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#3 2007-12-24 19:20:54

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

radi0gnome wrote:

As far as tricks, I think the best one is to learn it on an easier instrument to do it with first. Since we're mostly interested in flutes here, Balinese suling is a good choice because they're very cheap and since you don't have to develop an embouchure you can work soley on the breathing. Once you learn it you'll naturally try to apply it to every wind instrument you pick up. Some will work easy and some won't, shakuhachi will work well enough that you'll be likely to work on it enough to get it working.

How hard would it be to do this without any instrument at all? I mean, can you just blow air out of your mouth with nothing to blow into when you are sitting somewhere with nothing to do? I often find myself practicing blowing during such moments. I haven't found any resources that talk about doing this without an instrument so I have no idea how the difficulty scales if you are simply blowing for no reason.

Other than that, I might pick up something to practice with. I keep running into descriptions that recommend experimentation with a straw and a glass of water. It seems logical enough to me and doesn't require anything that isn't readily available anywhere.

I think I'm starting to get an idea of how it should feel to do this. I tried to cheat a bit by filling my mouth with air and then using my hands to push my cheeks so that the air comes out. This way I don't have to think about breathing out at all. I was able to breath in while doing this. The tricky part was switching from using the air from lungs to using the air in my mouth and then back again. It takes so much concentration right now that I very easily get confused and end up not blowing at all for a moment. I also think that I'm not pulling in enough air because every time I inhale I end up having less and less air to use. It lets me keep it going for a moment but eventually I still run out of air.

radi0gnome wrote:

amokrun wrote:

I'm well aware that this isn't the kind of technique one should be practicing

Why not?

Well, my teacher has been playing for some 20 years, give or take some. I figure that before I sound anything like him it'll be at least that long. Learning techniques that don't necessarily contribute towards that may or may not help. Personally I'm hoping that by learning to understand breathing that much better I can also improve other areas such as muscle control and focus. My logic is that I can only get myself to play Sanya Sugagaki for so many hours each day. Doing something different should help in keeping things interesting so I can practice more without taking time away from the main thing.

I honestly have no opinion on whether or not circular breathing or any other technique is "right". If I had nothing but time and talent I'd learn every possible technique just for the heck of it. Unfortunately I have to focus on certain things over others to ensure that I'm getting somewhere, life being as short as it is. Right now this passes as something that I'd like to put some time into whereas things like flute beat boxing are out.

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#4 2007-12-24 19:38:51

Seth
Member
From: Scarsdale, NY
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 270

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Circular breathing on the digieridoo is not so hard.  It took me about 7 days, one hour a day, before I could do it well.  And yes, the trick of the straw and glass of water was a crucial instructional activity.

But on how on earth someone does this on shakuhachi is a total mystery to me. 

The main part of circular breathing on the dig entails puffing your cheeks in and out quite abruptly.  I don't see how one can maintain a focused embouchure while making such dramatic cheek puffing. 

I think Ray Brooks wrote that on the shakuhachi the technique entails puffing one's neck as opposed to one's cheeks, but alas, I simply can not figure out how to huff and puff with my neck.

But of course, the fact is it can be done.  If you find the secret let me know.  Yes, it is counter to the spirit of all honkyoku which is built on the pace of one's breath, but a super long note now and then is a cool parlour trick.

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#5 2007-12-24 20:35:27

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

amokrun wrote:

How hard would it be to do this without any instrument at all? I mean, can you just blow air out of your mouth with nothing to blow into when you are sitting somewhere with nothing to do? I often find myself practicing blowing during such moments. I haven't found any resources that talk about doing this without an instrument so I have no idea how the difficulty scales if you are simply blowing for no reason.

It's actually very easy to do without an instrument. It's even easier if you let your cheeks puff out and use them like a bellows.

amokrun wrote:

Other than that, I might pick up something to practice with. I keep running into descriptions that recommend experimentation with a straw and a glass of water. It seems logical enough to me and doesn't require anything that isn't readily available anywhere.

I never used the glass of water and straw to practice. I was never able to get it to work. It was some of the other Balinese music playing westerners who suggested it to me. The key point they never told me though is that you have to put a bend in the straw, otherwise the bubbles come out too strong and it's too uncontrollable to circular breath. I didn't learn until I started playing didjeridu. The problem with practicing with the water or just with a hand in front of your face to feel the air coming out (that was the only way I could check if your question about just blowing without using anything worked) is that it's too boring as something to strive for. It works good as a proof-of-concept sort of thing though to give you a reality check that you can keep blowing continuously.   


amokrun wrote:

I think I'm starting to get an idea of how it should feel to do this. I tried to cheat a bit by filling my mouth with air and then using my hands to push my cheeks so that the air comes out.

I'd think that there should be enough tension in your cheeks to not have to deflate them with your hands. Puffing cheeks makes it easier and more intuitive with just blowing without an instrument, with a straw and water, or with a didjeridu or suling, but I don't puff my cheeks out either on didjeridu or shakuhachi. On didjeridu my cheeks puff a little because of the back pressure, but I try to keep them taught, you get a less stifled tone that way. With shakuhachi there is less back pressure so it's easier to not puff the cheeks. Robert Dick teaches and uses circular breathing on Western flute, and he suggests to puff the cheeks, but I don't see how he does it, whenever I try it messes up the embouchure too much.     


amokrun wrote:

This way I don't have to think about breathing out at all. I was able to breath in while doing this. The tricky part was switching from using the air from lungs to using the air in my mouth and then back again. It takes so much concentration right now that I very easily get confused and end up not blowing at all for a moment.

It sounds like your moving in the right direction. Yes, your right, it's the coordination of breathing in while you close the mouth cavity from your thoat with the back of your tongue that's difficult. Without puffing your cheeks there's an extra element of coordination thrown in because you have to use the rest of your tongue to push the air out. 


amokrun wrote:

I also think that I'm not pulling in enough air because every time I inhale I end up having less and less air to use. It lets me keep it going for a moment but eventually I still run out of air.

Not really, small breaths are fine, you'll eventually find a balance and it'll work better. I can't go on indefinitely. In the demo I threw together those breaks in the sound were because I eventually ran out of air. I kind of disregarded musicality in that and just strove to make long enough phrases so that anyone who listened would realize that nobody has that much lung capacity to do it without circular breathing. If I was better at it I wouldn't have put any breaks in those 3 minutes. Outside of practice, to be musical it doesn't make sense to go on indefinitely. Think of how you are limited with normal breathing. It's true that if your capacity is developed enough (and your blood is oxygenated enough) you should be able to get a 60 second tone. But realistically, depending on what note you're playing and how you're playing it, 30 second phrases are natural and maybe even a stretch. With circular breathing if you can get a few 40 or 45 second phrases in there it's that much less limiting and it's still musical.     

amokrun wrote:

radi0gnome wrote:

amokrun wrote:

I'm well aware that this isn't the kind of technique one should be practicing

Why not?

Well, my teacher has been playing for some 20 years, give or take some. I figure that before I sound anything like him it'll be at least that long. Learning techniques that don't necessarily contribute towards that may or may not help.

Well, I guess it depends on what your goals are. There are plenty of fine shakuhachi players out there not using circular breathing, so you obivously don't need to learn it to play well. 

amokrun wrote:

Personally I'm hoping that by learning to understand breathing that much better I can also improve other areas such as muscle control and focus.

Learning circular breathing should help. Did you get Riley Lee's "Breath" DVD yet? It doesn't teach circular breathing, but it will help understanding breathing too.

amokrun wrote:

...If I had nothing but time and talent I'd learn every possible technique just for the heck of it. Unfortunately I have to focus on certain things over others to ensure that I'm getting somewhere, life being as short as it is.

Hmm... It sounds like a bit of scarcity conciousness there, saying life is short and all. It may be a bit to psychological/metaphysical for this discussion, but it's part of the same reason a lot of people feel starved for oxygen before they really are.

Last edited by radi0gnome (2007-12-25 12:44:29)


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#6 2007-12-24 20:54:26

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Seth wrote:

Circular breathing on the digieridoo is not so hard.  It took me about 7 days, one hour a day, before I could do it well.

It took me about a year of about 2 or 3 hours a day on didjeridu.

Seth wrote:

But on how on earth someone does this on shakuhachi is a total mystery to me.

Sorry to say this, but I have the feeling you're fooling yourself a bit as to how well you learned it on didj. Different people have different experiences, but after I learned it on didj it was pretty easy on shakuhachi. 

Seth wrote:

The main part of circular breathing on the dig entails puffing your cheeks in and out quite abruptly.  I don't see how one can maintain a focused embouchure while making such dramatic cheek puffing.

First, I can't see how Robert Dick can circular breath on Western flute with puffed cheeks, but he does, or at least that's the way he teaches circular breathing. Second, as I mentioned in my last post, I don't puff my cheeks, you don't have to.   

Seth wrote:

I think Ray Brooks wrote that on the shakuhachi the technique entails puffing one's neck as opposed to one's cheeks, but alas, I simply can not figure out how to huff and puff with my neck.

Well, I can understand what he was saying feeling-wise, but if your paraphrasing is accurate (and I'm guessing that  it is), his statement is misleading. You don't use your neck as a bellows. But, using the tongue muscles to push the air out makes it feel like a lot is going on in your neck and it might even look like it to an outside observer.   

Seth wrote:

But of course, the fact is it can be done.  If you find the secret let me know.  Yes, it is counter to the spirit of all honkyoku which is built on the pace of one's breath, but a super long note now and then is a cool parlour trick.

I think the "secret" is practice. But, while I agree that from my understanding of honkyoku that you're right about circular breathing being counter to the spirit of it, I don't feel that circular breathing falls into the "parlor trick" category. That would be only one of many its many musical uses, and as a parlor trick I personally don't think it will impress too many friends.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#7 2007-12-24 21:04:23

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Seth wrote:

I think Ray Brooks wrote that on the shakuhachi the technique entails puffing one's neck as opposed to one's cheeks, but alas, I simply can not figure out how to huff and puff with my neck.

Actually, what Ray Brooks is talking about is developing the habit of enlarging the back of the mouth/throat cavity to increase the
inner volume of that area--a more powerful sound is produced. Both Koga-sensei and Kakizakai-sensei refer to this technque in
their writings.


eB


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#8 2007-12-24 21:30:37

Seth
Member
From: Scarsdale, NY
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 270

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

edosan wrote:

Seth wrote:

I think Ray Brooks wrote that on the shakuhachi the technique entails puffing one's neck as opposed to one's cheeks, but alas, I simply can not figure out how to huff and puff with my neck.

Actually, what Ray Brooks is talking about is developing the habit of enlarging the back of the mouth/throat cavity to increase the
inner volume of that area--a more powerful sound is produced. Both Koga-sensei and Kakizakai-sensei refer to this technque in
their writings.


eB

Can you be specific which writings?  I would like to read further... thanks

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#9 2007-12-25 02:49:01

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

radi0gnome wrote:

I'd think that there should be enough tension in your cheeks to not have to deflate them with your hands. Puffing cheeks makes it easier and more intuitive with just blowing without an instrument, with a straw and water, or with a didjeridu or suling, but I don't puff my cheeks out either on didjeridu or shakuhachi. On didjeridu my cheeks puff a little because of the back pressure, but I try to keep them taught, you get a less stifled tone that way. With shakuhachi there is less back pressure so it's easier to not puff the cheeks. Robert Dick teaches and uses circular breathing on Western flute, and he suggests to puff the cheeks, but I don't see how he does it, whenever I try it messes up the embouchure too much.

I found that puffing my cheeks made it easier to kind of forget about that part of the equation at first. It lets me get that much more air into my mouth so that I can just focus on breathing in and the mouth just does its thing. Once I learned to forget about what my mouth does I was able to do this. My biggest problem at first was figuring out how it should feel to do this. Blowing air out was a feeling I knew all too well and thus it was really hard to add anything to it. Do something differently enough and it becomes easier to change habits.

radi0gnome wrote:

It sounds like your moving in the right direction. Yes, your right, it's the coordination of breathing in while you close the mouth cavity from your thoat with the back of your tongue that's difficult. Without puffing your cheeks there's an extra element of coordination thrown in because you have to use the rest of your tongue to push the air out.

I think this may be a great practice for me. Normally when playing shakuhachi I need to use my tongue somewhat to guide the air in my mouth. It is difficult for me to use it for something else as well while blowing. If I can pull this off I think that I can learn to control my tongue better during blowing. Oddly enough I can blow in all sorts of ways while doing anything I want with my tongue if I ditch the shakuhachi but to get a solid sound with it I need to have my tongue in certain place.

I stayed up for pretty darn late last night trying to get this right and got it to a point where I can do this without instrument. Now it's a matter of finding a way to do it with shakuhachi while maintaining solid air stream. Easier said than done, I'm sure. Blowing into air is more forgiving because there is no need to maintain any particular kind of air stream.

Question. You said that you use tongue instead of cheeks to push the air out. I don't really get this part yet. I can't seem to be able to get any air to escape my mouth by doing anything with my tongue. I can sort of blow without using my cheeks by compressing the space inside my mouth but I don't see how tongue plays into this. With cheeks it's easy to just push them in because that lowers the inner volume of the mouth so much that air will come out really strongly without much effort.

radi0gnome wrote:

Not really, small breaths are fine, you'll eventually find a balance and it'll work better.

Should you pull in enough air so that you can go on blowing for a while with what you have in your lungs or just enough to fill your mouth again? I found it really easy to breath by filling my mouth, blowing that air out and then pulling in enough air to fill my mouth again. Taking a really deep breath was pretty hard. I suppose that pulling only a little bit of air adds more irregularity into blowing since you have to switch over more often. I'll have to experiment with different ways of doing this. Running out of air in my mouth is still a bit of a problem occasionally.

radi0gnome wrote:

Outside of practice, to be musical it doesn't make sense to go on indefinitely. Think of how you are limited with normal breathing. It's true that if your capacity is developed enough (and your blood is oxygenated enough) you should be able to get a 60 second tone. But realistically, depending on what note you're playing and how you're playing it, 30 second phrases are natural and maybe even a stretch. With circular breathing if you can get a few 40 or 45 second phrases in there it's that much less limiting and it's still musical.

I generally agree with that. The way I see this technique is that it allows you to extend the sound in places where longer sound is called for but you can't do it otherwise. There was a lot of talk about how Ma is ruined if one does this. I don't really agree because I feel that Ma is about correct timing more than particular way to introduce that timing. It may be true that most honkyoku have been designed around phrases that take into account the length of your breath. Yet, this doesn't mean that all music works this way. If there is a piece which calls for a really long sound to set the mood, one should be able to play that sound or it just can't work right.

Anyway, back to technique.

radi0gnome wrote:

Learning circular breathing should help. Did you get Riley Lee's "Breath" DVD yet? It doesn't teach circular breathing, but it will help understanding breathing too.

I was supposed to get it as a present for myself but certain other things got in the way. Doesn't help that I've been sick for nearly a week now. Way to spend the holidays. I certainly will get it soon enough, though, as it sounds rather interesting.

radi0gnome wrote:

amokrun wrote:

...If I had nothing but time and talent I'd learn every possible technique just for the heck of it. Unfortunately I have to focus on certain things over others to ensure that I'm getting somewhere, life being as short as it is.

Hmm... It sounds like a bit of scarcity conciousness there, saying life is short and all. It may be a bit to psychological/metaphysical for this discussion, but it's part of the same reason a lot of people feel starved for oxygen before they really are.

Certainly true and I admit to thinking like that to some degree. I'm mostly trying to make sure that I maintain focus on why I got started to begin with. This is such a wonderful thing that it's easy to get distracted by something that feels useful at the time but turns out not to be very much so in the long run. Say, suppose that there was a way to play shakuhachi by blowing into the end instead of the blowing edge. I could spend a couple of years learning to do it and it would be a nice trick to show to someone. Yet, it might not take me any closer to understanding anything about the music I fell in love with in the beginning.

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#10 2007-12-25 09:33:21

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

amokrun wrote:

Question. You said that you use tongue instead of cheeks to push the air out. I don't really get this part yet. I can't seem to be able to get any air to escape my mouth by doing anything with my tongue. I can sort of blow without using my cheeks by compressing the space inside my mouth but I don't see how tongue plays into this. With cheeks it's easy to just push them in because that lowers the inner volume of the mouth so much that air will come out really strongly without much effort.

I'm not sure how you're pushing the air out without using your tongue if you're not using your cheeks. I guess you could be using your jaw, the suling players do, but I find it gets in the way with shakuhachi almost as much as puffing the cheeks. Try it without taking in a breath at the same time (you probably already are, but just to make sure). I'll try to describe the motion. I used to say to inquisitive people about how it worked was to seal off the mouth cavity by putting the tongue into a position like you're enunciating a "K" to start. This might work with puffing cheeks, but it doesn't free up enough of the tongue to help push air out. What I'm actually doing is to seal off the mouth cavity by putting my tongue into an almost gutteral "K" position, like if I were to exagerrate and pronounce the "ch" in channuka or the "chiem" in "l'chiam" (hey, it's that season smile . The front portion of the tongue is down, it feels like it's touching that soft squishy part below the bottom gums. Then I move the middle portion of my tongue up close to the roof of my mouth. The tip of the tongue stays low but comes up some and I can feel my bottom teeth.  And that's it. I can get a little puff of air poweful enough to make a sound on the shakuhachi this way. It only lasts for about less than a second, so that's where the fun part comes in with trying to time an inhalation through the nose at the same time.         

amokrun wrote:

Should you pull in enough air so that you can go on blowing for a while with what you have in your lungs or just enough to fill your mouth again? I found it really easy to breath by filling my mouth, blowing that air out and then pulling in enough air to fill my mouth again. Taking a really deep breath was pretty hard. I suppose that pulling only a little bit of air adds more irregularity into blowing since you have to switch over more often. I'll have to experiment with different ways of doing this. Running out of air in my mouth is still a bit of a problem occasionally.

Well, I just tried keeping a drone going for a half minute with taking a circular breath whenever I felt it seemed natural. It was kind of rhythmic, or maybe I should say cyclical with about the same duration in between each breath and I took 14 breaths in that time. So that's about one breath every 2 seconds. I can go indefinitely like that, I just tried and got to 4 minutes and quit. My mouth was filling up with saliva and my lip was starting to fatigue, but breathing wasn't a problem although I did feel a bit whoozy when I started typing this sentence. I also just tried taking 10 seconds worth of puffs without using my lungs (the technique I described in the previous paragraph). I got about 20 puffs in the 10 seconds. So, the amount of air filling my mouth is about a half a second worth and since I take an inhalation every two seconds. I guess that means I'm drawing in four mouthfuls of air.

BTW, when I play I don't take a circular breath every two seconds. I play with a normal breath for a while and if I want the phrase to continue but can see that I'll run out of breath too soon, that's when I'll take a few circular breaths.           


As an aside, since I'm not so media constrained anymore, I think I'll put together a short youtube video or two demonstrating circular breathing, maybe with a bit of tutorial. I'll see if I can get that done tomorrow, if not it'll be sometime next week. It'll be thrown together and not very professional, but it might prove useful to a number of people.  I'll post the link on this thread.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#11 2007-12-25 10:03:35

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Seth wrote:

edosan wrote:

Seth wrote:

I think Ray Brooks wrote that on the shakuhachi the technique entails puffing one's neck as opposed to one's cheeks, but alas, I simply can not figure out how to huff and puff with my neck.

Actually, what Ray Brooks is talking about is developing the habit of enlarging the back of the mouth/throat cavity to increase the
inner volume of that area--a more powerful sound is produced. Both Koga-sensei and Kakizakai-sensei refer to this technque in
their writings.


eB

Can you be specific which writings?  I would like to read further... thanks

Koga-sensei's word's on this topic can be found in his basic playing guide:

     'Shakuhachi: Japanese Bamboo Flute' (available at www.shakuhachi.com and www.shakuhachiyuu.com, among other places),
     and in more detail in his 'Masayuki Koga, SHAKUHACHI ESSAYS', and 'Masayuki Koga, EXTRACT OF MASTER TECHNIQUES FOR SHAKUHACHI',
     also available at www.shakuhachi.com.

Kakizakai-sensei's discussion of the subject can be found in his 'Shakuhachi Playing Tips', translated and compiled by Zachary Braverman
     at http://www.kotodama.net/shakuhachi/tips.html. These tips are the result of nine years of musings by one of the great living
     masters of shakuhachi, KAKIZAKAI Kaoru. Alas, I do not have the exact reference handy, and he mentions the technique in several
     places, so you'll have to read through the tips to find them. Do you a world of good smile. Be sure to read Zach's new preview for another
     upcoming publication: Keisukei Zenyoji's 'Beginner's Guide to Shakuhachi'.


eB

Last edited by edosan (2007-12-25 10:13:36)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#12 2007-12-25 10:18:21

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

edosan wrote:

Seth wrote:

edosan wrote:


Actually, what Ray Brooks is talking about is developing the habit of enlarging the back of the mouth/throat cavity to increase the
inner volume of that area--a more powerful sound is produced. Both Koga-sensei and Kakizakai-sensei refer to this technque in
their writings.


eB

Can you be specific which writings?  I would like to read further... thanks

Koga-sensei's word's on this topic can be found in his basic playing guide:

     ...

eB

Is this about circular breathing or is it about an open-throat kind of thing with regular breath? Maybe both???


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#13 2007-12-25 12:30:26

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Nothing to do with circular breathing (yawn....).

Just a way to increase the resonance of the system.


eB


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#14 2007-12-25 12:52:13

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

edosan wrote:

Nothing to do with circular breathing (yawn....).

Just a way to increase the resonance of the system.


eB

Yawn? What's with the yawn? I think this is the most exciting discussion that's happened so far... maybe because I know what's being talked about. I find all those other posts about how to play ho-ho-ho meri confusing.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#15 2007-12-25 14:04:39

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

radi0gnome wrote:

I think this is the most exciting discussion that's happened so far... maybe because I know what's being talked about. I find all those other posts about how to play ho-ho-ho meri confusing.

Perhaps so, and that is all well and good, and should continue, and you are a useful and active contributor to this forum,
but maybe the point here is really to help you work on doing 'ho-ho-ho meri' until it's NOT confusiing to you...

eB

Last edited by edosan (2007-12-25 14:06:57)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#16 2007-12-25 18:10:02

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

radi0gnome wrote:

I'm not sure how you're pushing the air out without using your tongue if you're not using your cheeks.

You know, it's dreadfully difficult to talk about stuff like this when the best you can do is "it feels like I'm...". Reminds me of my first lessons where we tried to cover things like how the lips should feel like when you are blowing properly. Eventually both me and my teacher were standing in front of a mirror doing silly faces to get some kind of idea what was going on.

I really have no idea how I'm getting the air out. The best description I can give is that it feels like I'm squeezing my mouth to push the air more together. When I open my lips just a little bit the air goes out naturally. I'm not doing anything dramatic like waving my tongue around or pushing the air in some way. I think it sort of works for now but I'm looking to improve this further once I have rest of it working. I can kind of get the switching of techniques down now but I'm still not getting enough air because on the second time I do it I find that I have next to nothing to pull into my mouth anymore. I'm certain that this is tied to me not being very good at breathing quickly yet. It bites me in pieces as well and so I know the feeling all too well.

radi0gnome wrote:

BTW, when I play I don't take a circular breath every two seconds. I play with a normal breath for a while and if I want the phrase to continue but can see that I'll run out of breath too soon, that's when I'll take a few circular breaths.

I was listening to a recording of Akikazu Nakamura playing some traditional piece althought I sadly can't remember which one it was right now. At one point he was doing a rather long and demanding phrase that, like many of them, becomes very quiet and disappears in the end. The way he was doing it, however, was that the phrase kind of repeated itself several times just when you thought that it was over. For a while I was completely clueless as to how he could find enough air to keep it going because most people would be done by the time they get to the end of the phrase. He clearly didn't have time to breath normally between those phrases because the sound never really stopped. Once I learned that he is one of the best known people utilizing this technique it all became a little more clear.

radi0gnome wrote:

As an aside, since I'm not so media constrained anymore, I think I'll put together a short youtube video or two demonstrating circular breathing, maybe with a bit of tutorial. I'll see if I can get that done tomorrow, if not it'll be sometime next week. It'll be thrown together and not very professional, but it might prove useful to a number of people.  I'll post the link on this thread.

Please do. If possible, drop me a copy of it in the original resolution since Youtube isn't known for preserving the quality of clips. No big deal when some random guy films himself talking to his computer but it can be annoying when you are trying to pay attention to details.

This thread has turned out to be really informative. Once again the forum surprises me in positive way. Someone should write a book based on stuff we have here.

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#17 2007-12-27 16:15:16

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

amokrun wrote:

radi0gnome wrote:

As an aside, since I'm not so media constrained anymore, I think I'll put together a short youtube video or two demonstrating circular breathing, maybe with a bit of tutorial...

Please do. If possible, drop me a copy of it in the original resolution since Youtube isn't known for preserving the quality of clips.

Here's the youtube link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=9nWcp5teYII

I'll get it on my myspace page soon too, right now I'm fumbling around with some pretty intuitive software but for some reason don't know what I'm doing... I'll try sending you a copy, but I'm not sure Yahoo! will let me attach that large of a file.

Edit --- The video is now on my myspace website www.myspace.com/charleskoeppen

Last edited by radi0gnome (2007-12-27 20:37:37)


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#18 2010-03-29 19:12:05

sahar
Member
Registered: 2008-12-22
Posts: 32

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

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#19 2010-03-31 19:47:14

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Here's my twopence as someone who has studied and played oboe, saxophone and didgeridu for many years and shakuhachi for about 0.5 percent of that time wink


1. Breathe through your nose as you imagine your breath going up the spine (back), start to breathe out through your mouth as you imagine the breath moving down from the top of your head down the front of your body. Try to do this so that there is almost no distinction at the cross-over places between breathing in and breathing out. (A tad like the micro-cosmic orbit in Qigong). Practice this.

2. Now as you breathe out allow your cheeks to (partially) fill with air from your out-breath just prior to breathing in. Practice this.

3. Now as you breathe in through you nose slowly squeeze the air out of your mouth with your cheeks (and throat to a degree). To do this and not have the air completely expelled straight away you'll need to purse your lips so as to produce resistance. Practice this.

4. (Optional) Repeat 3 but this time as you breathe in purse your lips and produce a 'raspberry' as you squeeze the air out with your cheeks so as to really get the feel of producing a sound.

5. Now, at the exact moment of change over between breathing in and breathing out naturally, make sure you still keep squeezing air out with you cheeks for a bit so that the transistion from cheek squeezing to 'natural' shakuhachi out-breath is as smooth as possible. Practice this.

6. (Optional) Practice as above an try to produce a continuous 'raspberry' throughout the entire procedure.

6. For any of this to work effectively you will need to have mastered a comfortable degree of diaphragmatic control and throughout the entire procedure you will need to employ the use of the diaphragm. This is necessary not only for obvious reasons but also it is imperative for the 'transition periods.


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#20 2010-04-01 02:34:57

sahar
Member
Registered: 2008-12-22
Posts: 32

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

I watched a couple more videos on youtube where they explain the process. This is my result after one day of practice.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvL6LQEbT6Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDgsF3nCk80

It's lots of fun.. good luck!

Sahar

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#21 2010-04-01 08:20:50

Toby
Shakuhachi Scientist
From: out somewhere circling the sun
Registered: 2008-03-15
Posts: 405

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Ray Brooks and I talked about this for shakuhachee. He is a master circular breather on the inst. and he does not puff out his cheeks, he does it completely with his throat. I watched him do it and still can't figure out which muscles he uses...However if you can master it this way it will not change the embouchure at all, as is almost inevitable puffing out the cheeks.

Toby

PS I hate this "tube of delight" and "rubbish" BS. The former conjures pRonographic images and the latter is simply stupid. Whose idea was this anyway?

Last edited by Toby (2010-04-01 08:24:30)

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#22 2010-04-01 08:45:45

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Toby wrote:

PS I hate this "tube of delight" and "rubbish" BS. The former conjures pRonographic images

You have a dirty mind!


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#23 2010-04-01 08:58:58

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

Toby wrote:

Ray Brooks and I talked about this for shakuhachee. He is a master circular breather on the inst. and he does not puff out his cheeks, he does it completely with his throat. I watched him do it and still can't figure out which muscles he uses...However if you can master it this way it will not change the embouchure at all, as is almost inevitable puffing out the cheeks.

I don't puff my cheeks either, I notice Mr. Koga does. There's a little bit of balance going on there, part of the added difficulty to circular breathing on shakuhachi is that circular breathing is more difficult if you don't puff your cheeks. However, if your embouchure is advanced enough to relax it to the point where you can puff your cheeks, the circular breathing will be easier, but it took a lot more work to be able to play with that relaxed of an embouchure.

Robert Dick, a top silver flute player/teacher who says circular breathing is an essential technique for modern silver flute players, says that one of the benefits is the embouchure control you develop by allowing your cheeks to puff while maintaining a tone. I've just gotten to a point recently with my embouchure where I can relax enough to allow my cheeks to puff, that's after 4 years of shakuhachi practice. That suggests to me that the approach you take to learning circular breathing on flute depends your skill level. Maybe a plan for learning would be, if you can't play with relaxed enough cheeks to allow them to puff out, learn the circular breathing without puffing the cheeks because it's easier to learn that than developing the embouchure to the point where you can allow your cheeks to puff. However, if you can play with cheeks relaxed enough to puff out already, chose the easier "cheeks puffed" circular breathing.   

Toby wrote:

PS I hate this "tube of delight" and "rubbish" BS. The former conjures pRonographic images and the latter is simply stupid. Whose idea was this anyway?

If it helps throwing in my vote, I find it annoying too. It's obviously an attempt at humor, IMO almost makes it, but is too confusing and trying to decipher the original text ruins the joke.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#24 2010-04-01 09:59:34

sahar
Member
Registered: 2008-12-22
Posts: 32

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

"I don't puff my cheeks either, I notice Mr. Koga does."

Mr. Koga plays with puffy cheeks all the time, regardless of circular breathing. It is an integral part of how he plays. What I did notice when taking the video (which the video does not show), when I looked closer at his face and throat, there was much activity going in throat area.

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#25 2010-04-01 10:07:27

Mujitsu
Administrator/Flutemaker
From: San Francisco
Registered: 2005-10-05
Posts: 884
Website

Re: Circular breathing revisited.

radi0gnome wrote:

Toby wrote:

PS I hate this "tube of delight" and "rubbish" BS. The former conjures pRonographic images and the latter is simply stupid. Whose idea was this anyway?

If it helps throwing in my vote, I find it annoying too. It's obviously an attempt at humor, IMO almost makes it, but is too confusing and trying to decipher the original text ruins the joke.

Happy April Fools Day!  smile

http://www.mujitsu.com/images/philly.jpg

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