The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of accomplished flute players is finger dexterity. The truth is, breath control is the most essential skill for any flutist regardless of their age. It determines success in every aspect of playing the flute, including technique, phrasing, intonation and tone quality. Daily breathing exercises are important for increasing capacity and developing control.

Increasing capacity

While no one can increase the size of their lungs, it’s entirely possible to increase their capacity. This enables them to be more efficient when taking in and using oxygen. Consequently, it helps you become a better flutist. Different people have varied sizes of lungs and as a result, your lung capacity may not be equal to that of the next person. But it helps to learn to hold your breath as long as possible. Breathing exercises you can take to increase lung capacity include:

• Pursed lip breathing

This is one of the simplest breathing exercises to improve lung capacity. To do this, inhale as much air as possible and exhale slowly through pursed lips. The inhalation will push your muscles out while exhalation will produce a hissing sound. Exhalation is likely to take twice as much time as inhalation and as a result, will exert pressure on the chest.

• Breathe deeply

Breathe in deeply and count to twenty or as close as you can get before breathing out slowly. Repeat this severally and with time, you will be able to increase your lung capacity.

• Candle exercise

As the name suggests, this exercise requires a candle. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly in front of a lit candle until it goes off. The key to the success of this exercise is to exhale slowly. Once you have mastered the exercise, you can gradually move the candle further where it will require more air to blow out.

Increasing control

A flute lacks resistance and it’s therefore, too important to control your breath through a phrase. As a rule, the embouchure is small and round. The corners should be firm and shaped as if they are saying ‘pooh.’ You can also think of a kiss with the bottom lip rolled forward in a pout when forming the embouchure. Other scenarios you can think of to control your breath are outlined below.

• Imagine you are at the bottom of a swimming pool and need to ration your breath until your head is out of the water

• You are hiking a mountain and you need as much oxygen as you can get, but at the same time you have to use it more rationally

Whichever the scenario you think of when practicing breath control, it’s important to maintain a good posture. This means the chest should be relaxed, and at no point in time should you raise the shoulders or collapse the chest.

Practice makes perfect

Taking a few minutes every day to practice breath control will improve flute phrasing, confidence and even technique. It will also improve general performance with other musical instruments that require skillful breath control.