Double Bass – Breathing and Breath Holding (Musicians)(Psychology)(Pain)(Strain)(Injuries)(Posture)(Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on April 30, 2012

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Double Bass Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate bass technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)

It is almost universal that performing double bass players hold their breath, especially in the difficult sections of a piece. Is this inevitable? What effect does it have on a performance? What does it say about the double bass player? Can it be changed, if the bassist wants to do so?

Breath holding in double bass performance and while practicing is not inevitable, but like I said it is nearly universal. Since there is no obvious direct link between breathing and playing the double bass, you can play holding your breath and breathe when absolutely necessary. I have heard wonderful recordings of wonderful double bass players, and you can hear the players gasping for breath at times.

When a performing double bass player holds his or her breath, it usually means the performer is afraid he or she will not make it through a passage. If you stop breathing in the difficult passages, then I believe this always has an effect on what is coming out of the double bass. You may still play beautifully, but it has always been my experience, that when a bassist plays for me and doesn’t hold his or her breath in a passage, the passage dramatically changes.

It may not be a dramatic technical change, but the passage almost always has a better tone quality, and I notice there is a lowering in me of feeling stressed when I listen. The double bass player usually feels less stressed for two reasons. The first is he or she isn’t immobilizing the body. The second reason is that for possibly the first time, the bassist is watching him or herself breathe and choosing to breathe through the passage, rather than focusing on their fear of the music.

So, yes, a double bass player can make gentle non-held breathing part of their technique. A performing bassist’s technique is everything he or she does in their body when they perform. As an Alexander Technique teacher, when I help double bass players connect to their whole body as they play, then I truly make their technique conscious and whole body.

How does a double bass player internalize a new truly fearless breathing pattern as they play? Ex: I ask a bassist to play a three octave scale with no particular focus. Then I ask him to play it again, but this time ONLY observe his breathing as he plays. I ask him what he notices. He may say he’s noticing himself hold his breath, or he may notice he’s trying to “force” himself to continue to breathe.

I ask him to play again, but this time gently watch himself breathe as he plays the scale at a very easy tempo, and to let his body breathe when it wants to, and to continue to repeat the scale non-stop for five minutes. If he can truly trust this process, he will begin to realize he doesn’t have to make himself breathe, and he won’t hold his breath.

For possibly the first time in his life, he has expanded her double bass technique beyond his hands and arms, and he is beginning to play the bass with his whole mobile body.

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