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 Post subject: Breath Spaces
PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:35 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:04 pm
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Location: Scotland
I've been playing low whistle for twelve months and am gradually improving but I still struggle with breathing. I understand the concept of creating breath "spaces" throughout a tune but I struggle with knowing when and where to breath especially given I might play the tune on both high and low whistles and at different speeds with obviously different breath needs. Can anyone help me? There are few tunes I can get through without pausing at some inappropriate points to take an overdue breath.


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 Post subject: Re: Breath Spaces
PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:21 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:31 am
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As per usual, your first port of call:

Bro Steve on breathing

Listen to where accomplished players take their breath

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 Post subject: Re: Breath Spaces
PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:40 am 
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When I've taught whistle/flute workshops, or private lessons, that's one of the most difficult thing for the people new to ITM to figure out.

Especially for people coming from "legit" or "classical" music, where you're obligated to play every note on the page, and try to sneak in breaths in between.

So a "legit" player, when he's sightreading a, let's say, Baroque piece, and he sees a long string of unbroken eighthnotes coming up, will take a huge breath in order to get through that passage.

It's hard to get them to realise that Irish jigs and reels are, pretty much, ALL a long unbroken string of eighthnotes! And their approach won't work.

Instead, in ITM you "sacrifice" an eighthnote to create a breathing spot.

So in a jig that goes 123 456 you go 1'3 456 or 123 4'6 to create place to breathe (a comma being, in "legit" music, the indication of where to breathe). The note before the breath-spot is usually not held full length but merely touched on.

Now, some players have the breath-spots "built in" to their versions of their tunes and breathe in the same places every time they play the tune; with such people, a fiddler, boxplayer, piper, etc who learns a tune from them will be hard pressed to know what to put into that gap.

Other players make an art of breathing in different spots every time they play through a particular passage, so that the entirety of the tune is readily grasped by the listener.

I don't think either way is more "traditional" than the other, because you hear both approaches in early recordings. But it's true that on many of the earliest recordings of fluteplayers (1920s etc) their phrasing is more "square" than is common today, and they tend to play in neat 4-bar phrases, and take a breath at the end of every phrase. Today this would sound odd to some people.

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 Post subject: Re: Breath Spaces
PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:50 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:04 pm
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Location: Scotland
Thanks for those helpful replies. Grey Larsen also wrote an article available for download at http://www.greylarsen.com/services/tune ... p#freeinfo. With jigs, as you say, it's not too difficult to figure out, leaving the middle note of the triplets out, but when faced with a reel, thinking ahead to a breathing space is very difficult when you're still learning to play . . . another added complication further increased by learning to play tunes slowly then speeding up or maybe playing the tune on both high and low whistles. After twelve months of playing I still find it hard to complete a tune on a low D without panic breaths that disrupt the tune.


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 Post subject: Re: Breath Spaces
PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:50 am 
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There is a suggestion, that I think I read on C&F but have never seen mentioned again, which I found really useful (and ought to spend more time doing).

It was, as an exercise, to go through a few tunes working out one or two places to put a breath in in each measure. So for example with a jig seeing how it sounds by missing out a different 'middle' note for a breath each time through

Most of the places don't sound good but I found that it helped me get better at fitting a breath in without spoiling the rhythm and without having to think about it much. I think the places where I couldn't do it without losing the tune were where I didn't know the tune well enough.


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