Trombone lesson: 5 minutes breathing exercise

Trombone lesson: 5 minutes breathing exercise

I know what you think: Yet another five minutes exercise that is supposed to change my life…
But no, this time you can actually settle with two or three minutes! And it really did make a big difference for me the first time I tried it, so I strongly recommend that you tried it out.

I got into some really bad problems with air flow a few years ago. After playing for years without thinking much about breathing with a natural talent for relaxed air flow I slowly got into trouble. It took me a very long time to get rid of the bad habits, both physically and mentally. This following exercise is one that really helped me. It is actually adapted from an excellent article about breathing problems (the Valsalva Maneuver) by Brad Howland.

I recommend that you stand up and make sure that you are relaxed and in good balance without your instrument.

  • Breath in for two beats (60-80bpm) through the mouth.
  • Hold your breath for four beats, without locking up the throat. You should “balance the air” with the diaphragm while holding your breath.
  • Breath out evenly for four beats.
  • Repeat the process for a few minutes.

This is not hardcore training in order to get bigger lounges or stronger muscles, so make sure that it feels totally relaxed and comfortable all the time. I also suggest that you hold the embouchure as if you where about to play all the time.

I usually get a sensation of opening up and becoming more relaxed after about a minute.

Did it make any difference for you? Try playing something soft and relaxed on your instrument. If it feels better – remember that this is what it should feel like all the time, and now you have a tool to get there!

Good luck



  1. Jon 14 years ago

    After 20 years as a brass player, I’d never heard of that exercise! Just goes to show that you learn something new every day!

    I just ran the exercise and it’s definitely something I’m going to use in my daily practise to help airflow!

  2. king2b 14 years ago

    Jon, I´m glad it worked for you! Time for me to execute it as well before tonight´s gig 🙂

  3. Rev.Wrona 14 years ago

    Tried it, It felt more relaxed but It took me a couple of times NOT to lock my throat. I had to get distracted and not think about it to really utilize the exercise.

    Thank you for the exercise, look forward to more.

  4. HARRY PRICE 14 years ago


  5. Piotr 12 years ago

    Throat locking is a very bad habit … and i am still working on it. But this exercise seems to work for me. I will incorporate it into my daily routine.

    Anders, please keep up the good work!
    Thank you

  6. Anders 12 years ago

    Piotr, I agree, that might be the one most devastating habit for brass players! I use this exercise whenever I feel that my breathing is not totally relaxed. Good luck!


  7. Paul Bridson 11 years ago

    This is very similar to a yoga breathing technique I’ve used for years to calm the mind and body. Adding this to my musical routine makes tons of sense. Nice one! I think I may try it with the mouthpiece (no buzz, or tension…just placed on the chops.)

  8. Rick Perl 10 years ago

    Thanks for the exercises. Anything we can do do promote an open and relaxed airway is a great benefit. I know mine tends to tighten up as I go into the high register, and I think these exercises will help that.

  9. king2b 10 years ago

    Rick, focus on the embouchure in the high range, and make sure there is a lot of air passing by the lips, and that your lips are free to vibrate. That should help keeping you in the right track.

  10. John Rogers 9 years ago

    Thanks for your helpful advice, Anders. This is an ancient Indian yogic breathing exercise, usually done by holding down each nostril in turn so that the breath comes in and out by different channels. Very powerful and not to be overdone!

  11. Anders 9 years ago

    John, will look into your ancient trick, sounds interesting!

  12. yisehak 9 years ago

    I found it very helpful, thank you for the tips!

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