My students remind me to breathe long, natural breaths when playing through scales and arpeggios from moderate to brisk tempos. Through a selective process of elimination, we’ve collectively come to the conclusion that SWEATING it out, or driving technique to the ground, gritting teeth, or otherwise fighting a noteworthy terrain is counter-productive. In the final analysis, PERSPIRATION is not an option, but RESPIRATION (the kind that settles into a karmic ebb and flow) is our CENTRAL focus.
Most scales and arpeggios are most vulnerable to tension at the start, and at the turnaround in highest octave and back. A student might breathe easily into the body of these figures, but have bouts of edginess along the route, especially when the going is good. Or they might manage to skid around the bend only to careen anxiously into the final 8 notes down, in a BREATH-TAKING marathon finish.
I’ve noticed that the TURNAROUND at the top is most vulnerable, often coming with a nerve pile-up that stops playing in its tracks.
Face it, students in this quagmire, are dealing with short breaths and anticipatory anxiety when playing in faster tempos so as remedy, BREATH CONTROL should be as central to practicing as absorbing fingering and scale/arpeggio organizers.
In this video, a student explores the cosmos of breathing through brisk legato and staccato passages.