The most monumental concept that I learned about support is when I finally understood this one thing:
Support = Pressure
It is an equation that I could understand. When put into those few words, it all made sense to me. Now some of you will say “of course, that’s what support is, why didn’t you know that?” But, of course, it is not my experience that anyone talks about support in this fashion and hence mystery is created around the notion of support.
Now that you know this, what do you do to create this pressure? I will give you my method, but know that if you research this, you may get ideas about how to execute support that conflict with my method.
I’m okay with that.
Just try them all and see what works. That said, here goes.
Support comes from creating pressure within your breathing. Everyone knows that you should breath from your stomach when you take a breath any instrument. In other words you expand your stomach when you inhale. However, that by itself does not create support. Stay with me people stay with me.This is only step 1.
Lets talk ribs. Put your hands on your ribs, thumbs in back fingers in front. Now expand your rib cage by breathing in. Feel how your ribs can expand front to back not up and down.
Take a breath and expand both your ribs and your stomach.
You can now create pressure by pressing out on your rib cage and tightening your stomach muscles at the same time.
Let air out slowly like a hissing balloon. The air that is coming out should only come from your stomach while you create pressure on keeping the ribs expanded.
Pressure is also created from tightening the stomach muscles as you slowly let the air out. When you have used all your stomach air you then keep your stomach muscles tight and use your rib air. After all air is used then simply relax your muscles and breath in with an open throat and you are ready to play.
I call the rib air your spare tank of air. If your phrases are short and you don’t need that air then the ribs stay expanded all the time. You only let the ribs contract when you are in need of that extra tank of air.
My students first practice this method only with a slowly exhaling hiss. No flute involvement. Only after they have practiced breathing for a week will I ask them to apply this method to their studies and even then, I ask them to apply this method only in their technique book at first, slowly adding it to more exercises, etudes, and finally solos.
Don’t be discouraged. Learning support is a bit of a mountain to climb. It will come. But, you may have to be very intentional for quite some time. If you keep with it, eventually you won’t have to think quite so much about it. But at the beginning, every breath takes thought.
Well, happy breathing!