Over the years I’ve crystallized my thoughts about phrasing and breathing. I know that the pace of the breath and an ability to inhale deeply and relaxingly release air at various phrase intervals create beautiful lines. Music must breathe–notes cannot be crowded even in rapid succession. If the breath is flowing naturally, replenished by a wholesome intake of air to synchronize with cadences, resolutions, and even at the very beginning of a composition, expressive playing will be sustained. In addition, the supple flow of the wrists, with arms and elbows relaxed, complete the breathing ensemble. The breath underlies coordinated, graceful movement of the whole body as it merges with the music.
Singers rely on the breath and its control. The vocal model is certainly a reference for pianists.
Beginning students as young as 6 or 7, can scan poems that are set to music and “breathe” through them as a preliminary to playing a piece. Natural cadences of the voice and phrase shaping can be communicated through this activity. Singing illustrates how long the breath can be held, before it needs renewal. The teacher can therefore direct the student to natural breathing points from phrase to phrase by using verses before singing them.
In the first video, I explore my own sense of breathing and phrasing. In the second one, Irina Gorin, introduces a beginning student to phrasing by scanning and breathing through the words to a song in readiness for the study of a piece. She synchronizes a graceful supple wrist movement with each breath.