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Topic: OT - Breath for brass and winds

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  1. #1

    OT - Breath for brass and winds

    In recent feedback in the Listening Room Raymond suggested (among other things) I add breath pauses to a piece. That got me thinking. (Always a bad sign.) Since I work with notation software, do I add the breath marks to the score, or just in the "performance"? Obviously, if I way a pause at a particular point I should include the indication. But what about "breath when you get a chance" situations?

    Do performers appreciate the inclusion of breath marks, or is an insult to their professionalism?

    Pat

  2. #2

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    no, performers don't see breath marks as an insult. they are suggestions, to be ignored or taken into account.
    however, the idea of "including space for breath" does not mean to put in breath marks.

    you can put in all the breath marks you want and STILL not leave enough room to breathe.

    remember two important factors:
    1. the instrument needs air.
    2. the MUSICIAN needs air!

    they have to come to a comfortable accommodation whereby the two can share in the unlimited supply. if the instrument gets all the air it needs but the musician is not, well... <CLUNCK!> <CRASH!>

    and your piece starts to sound like P.D.Q Bach's Schleptet.

  3. #3

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    Quote Originally Posted by pokeefe View Post
    In recent feedback in the Listening Room Raymond suggested (among other things) I add breath pauses to a piece. That got me thinking. (Always a bad sign.) Since I work with notation software, do I add the breath marks to the score, or just in the "performance"? Obviously, if I way a pause at a particular point I should include the indication. But what about "breath when you get a chance" situations?

    Do performers appreciate the inclusion of breath marks, or is an insult to their professionalism?

    Pat
    Pat,
    1. In most cases the music will dictate where breaths are to occur, assuming the music is written by a composer who is knowledgable about brass/winds. Only in cases where a breath is to be taken in an otherwise unnatural/unexpected place would I expect to see a mark. Adding to Michel's comment, most of the markings I see are obvious. While I am not "insulted," it's just another thing to look at...and Michel, of course, is right when he says we either heed them or ignore them! One place I WOULD use one, though, is in the case where EVERYONE in the ensemble has a breath. I find this frequently in chamber music such as quartets and quintets.
    2. Normally we brass players breathe in spaces created by slightly cutting off notes on the "left side" of the notation.
    3. In many notation programs, inserting the comma as a breath mark will trigger a bit of a "fermata" or an unwanted hesitation. If you enter one, turn off playback for it. It is indeed a "Luftpause," after all.
    4. Breathing for brass players is somewhat analogous to bowing for string players in this sense: For string players, all the notes under a slur are to be played on one bow, legato. For brass/wind players, all the notes under a slur are to be played in one breath, legato.
    5. Standard practice is not to overmark either bowings or breathing, letting the performers and the music sort it out. Mark only where it is mandatory, or unnatural/unexpected.
    6. Do not notate the breath spaces I referred to in point 2 above. If a passage ends with a half note that I need to cut off to breathe, just write the half note, not a triple-dotted quarter followed by a sixteenth rest.
    7. The biggest sins of inexperienced composers/arrangers for brass or winds are writing phrases that are too long, writing phrases that are not idiomatic for the instruments, writing lengthy passages for the extreme upper range of brasses without rests, and writing brass passages that do not allow for rests and utilize too much "face time."
    8. Of course, remember that the lower brass need more breathing opportunities than do the higher brass.
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  4. #4

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    .. assuming the music is written by a composer who is knowledgable about brass/winds.
    Uh. oh. Were that the case here, I probably would not have posted the question in the first place.

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    One place I WOULD use one, though, is in the case where EVERYONE in the ensemble has a breath.
    I typically use caesura in that case. But so far the caesura has always followed a fermata in my music so the tempo has already been messed up.

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    2. Normally we brass players breathe in spaces created by slightly cutting off notes on the "left side" of the notation.
    3. In many notation programs, inserting the comma as a breath mark will trigger a bit of a "fermata" or an unwanted hesitation. If you enter one, turn off playback for it. It is indeed a "Luftpause," after all.
    I use Sibelius; it doesn't "play" either breath marks or caesura. For breath marks I shorten the duration of the notes on the left side. For caesura following a fermata I just add a slight pause to the fermata. (I don't know what I will do for a caesura that is not preceded by a fermata. Not include it, probably.)


    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    5. Standard practice is not to overmark either bowings or breathing, letting the performers and the music sort it out. Mark only where it is mandatory, or unnatural/unexpected.
    Ah hah! That is what I was hoping to hear. I think I'll go take out a bunch of breath marks I've been adding. (That will make it harder to find where I've changed the note durations, but I'll cope.)

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    7. The biggest sins of inexperienced composers/arrangers for brass or winds are writing phrases that are too long, writing phrases that are not idiomatic for the instruments, writing lengthy passages for the extreme upper range of brasses without rests, and writing brass passages that do not allow for rests and utilize too much "face time."
    Oh, sir, you underestimate my ability to sin! However, you've duly frightened my with that writing phrases that are not idiomatic for the instruments and utilize too much "face time". (Related, I think, since that "too much" is probably part of "not idiomatic".) Unfortunately, I don't know how to acquire that experience. GPO doesn't seem to care. It doesn't fall over gasping for breath, or stop playing to rub life back into its lips.

    Anyway, thanks for your feedback.

    Pat

  5. #5

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax
    6. Do not notate the breath spaces I referred to in point 2 above. If a passage ends with a half note that I need to cut off to breathe, just write the half note, not a triple-dotted quarter followed by a sixteenth rest.
    As usual Jim (and Michael) have given very thoughtful advice to which I have nothing meaningful to add. HOWEVER some people maintain separate playback and notation files. So in the above mentioned example, the notation file would contain a half note, while the playback file might contain a dotted quarter note, eighth rest or the triple-dotted quarter followed by a sixteenth rest. This is assuming of course you're using notation software for notation AND playback.

    Steve Winkler

  6. #6

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    I just sorta scanned this thread, but another name for "breath mark" is "phrase mark." This may help those writers who are unfamilar with specific instrument limitations and practices.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  7. #7

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    Quote Originally Posted by reberclark View Post
    ...another name for "breath mark" is "phrase mark."
    Hmm. I thought "phrase mark" was the same symbol as a slur. The end of the phrase would certainly be a place for a breath/pause, but I don't think there is a direct association.

    The "breath mark" I'm familiar with is a comma, and indicates a pause that does not interrupt the tempo. That is, it's a pause caused by shortening the duration of preceding note.

    BTW, my only formal association with music and musicians was in choral groups over 30 years ago. There's a lot I never learned and a lot I've forgotten. I'm definitely no expert.

    Pat

  8. #8
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    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    G’day pokeefe,

    If you sing the phrases with full voice, you might get some idea of when your cyber brass player might run out of cyber breath.


    Herbert
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  9. #9

    Re: OT - Breath for brass and winds

    Quote Originally Posted by pokeefe View Post
    Hmm. I thought "phrase mark" was the same symbol as a slur. The end of the phrase would certainly be a place for a breath/pause, but I don't think there is a direct association.
    Hi Pat. The over-arching slur that extends over an entire phrase is a phrase marking - that is correct.

    I've also heard the comma (breath mark) termed as such. My experience, however, does not extend very deeply into choral music. This usage was associated with concert band.

    In any case for those unfamiliar with wind players' breathing patterns it might be a good guide.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

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