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We need to be able to breathe naturally at all times whilst playing the violin -- without ever holding the breath. Breathing allows us to keep the body released and free, and helps us feel the natural shape of the music.

A singer regulates their breathing to create the right proportions of sound and expression in each musical phrase, and violinists can do the same in order to create that same fluidity and flexibility of motion and expression using the bow. The movements of the bow are the violinist's equivalent of a singer's vocal expression. Bow like you would sing!

Be careful not to hold your breath when you start to play -- it's an easy moment to get things wrong. Before you start to play, check that you are breathing freely, and make sure that when your bowing movements start, you've already begun to exhale.

Exercise: 'Body into chair' - Try bringing your bow to the instrument, and then letting it 'fall' into the string as if you're relaxing your body backwards into an armchair or sofa Try it:

  • once with a spoken exhale (‘aaah!’)
  • once with a silent exhale

Breathing is only really synchronised with playing on the gesture before you start playing (including rests). Once you’ve started playing, your breathing should be free and natural (never shallow, held or constricted).

Exercise: ‘Breathing with the Bow’ - As you're about to play a note with the bow, synchronise your breathing with the bow movement. But make sure that you that precedes a played note and be sure to breathe out BEFORE the note.

  • play a silent up bow (bow should be above the string); then exhale out as you play a down bow.
  • make sure that the exhale starts before the note starts. This way your bow movement will be smooth and well connected to the breath.

Inhaling is associated with opening and energising - it oxygenates your body.

Exhaling is associated with releasing. Athletes will always inhale before the action, and exhale on the action; a good example is the sounds you hear from professional tennis players as they exhale when hitting the ball.

Exercise: Inhale, Exhale

  • INHALE whilst bringing the violin UP to the body (bring the violin to you), EXHALE whilst releasing the bow arm down onto the violin to play a note.