Circular breathing

Circular breathing

Circular breathing is a technique used by players of some wind instruments to produce a continuous tone without interruption. This is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks.

It is used extensively in playing the Australian didgeridoo, the Sardinian launeddas and Egyptian arghul, as well as many traditional oboes and flutes of Asia and the Middle East. A few jazz and classical wind and brass players also utilize some form of circular breathing.

Although many professional wind players find circular breathing highly useful, few pieces of European orchestral music composed before the 20th century actually require its use. However, the advent of circular breathing among professional wind players has allowed for the transcription of pieces originally composed for string instruments which would be unperformable on a wind instrument without the aid of circular breathing. A notable example of this phenomenon is "Moto Perpetuo", transcribed for trumpet by Rafael Méndez from the original work for violin by Paganini.

The current record for continuous playing is 1 hour 30 minutes and 45 seconds, held by saxophonist Geovanny Escalante.[citation needed]



The person inhales fully and begins to exhale and blow. When the lungs are nearly empty, the last volume of air is blown into the mouth, and the cheeks are inflated with this air. Then, while still blowing this last bit of air out by squeezing the cheeks, the person must very quickly fill the lungs by inhaling through the nose prior to running out of the air in the mouth. If done correctly, by the time the air in the mouth is nearly exhausted the person can begin to exhale from the lungs once more, ready to repeat the process again. Essentially, circular breathing bridges the gap between breaths. The air stored in your cheeks is used as an extra air reserve to play with while you sneak in a breath through your nose.

Health benefits

A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that learning and practicing the didgeridoo helped reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea by strengthening muscles in the upper airway, thus reducing their tendency to collapse during sleep.[18] This strengthening occurs after the player has mastered the circular breathing technique.

Instruments with circular breathing integral to technique

Musicians known for circular breathing

Some musicians who do not play the instruments mentioned above are known for using circular breathing.


  1. ^ "Daniel Goode: About". Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  2. ^ University of Chicago
  3. ^ "Irvin Mayfield: Hombre of Hot Music and Vital Education". 2004-08-30. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  4. ^ "Roscoe Mitchell Interview". Perfect Sound Forever. May 1998. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  5. ^ BBC Radio 3 profile
  6. ^ "Sergei Nakariakov: Biography". Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  7. ^ Eugene Rousseau
  8. ^ "Colin Stetson: Press". Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  9. ^ "Bora Dugic - Zajdi, Zajdi". 
  10. ^ "Canibus - Patriots 2". 


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  • Katschmartschik W. Permanent exhalaion (PA) in wind instruments performing technique (problems of history and physiology). Dissert. Kiev. State Music Acad. 1995.
  • Kynaston P. Trent. Circular breathing. Studio Publ. // Recordings
  • Nicolet A. Studien zum Spielen Neuer Musik. Pro musica nova. — Gerig, Köln, 1973

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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