Posture, and whether you are sitting comfortably, is something a lot of us don’t take seriously enough; yes we think about breathing, embouchure, mouthpiece and a myriad of other things but how we are sitting or standing seems to be at the lower end of the priority list. But let us explore posture and why it is important.
The biggest issue with brass playing is to create an effective airflow from the lungs, through the throat and lips to make a buzz and produce a sound. Ideally the muscles around the diaphragm need to be free to move and push air out of the lungs. The throat needs to be open and there needs to be adequate space between the lips to allow the air to flow into the instrument.
When standing, the posture is often better than sitting down. By the very nature of it, standing is much better. With a straight back, it means the airways are clearer for a better flow of air and consequently freer blowing and a better sound. The straight back is important; in a slumped position the diaphragm muscles are compressed to such an extent that they are unable to push the air out of the lungs, leading to a tighter sound and in severe cases restriction of the air. The instrument also needs to be held as high up as is comfortable. If you think about it, the lower the instrument is held the more compressed the throat becomes and the air is once again restricted. The angle of the instrument though is particular to the individual. Physiology dictates what angle is the most comfortable and different people will find different angles which most suit them. The most important thing is that they are paying some attention to how open their throat is with a particular position.
Sitting, which most players do when performing, is more problematic. Naturally, the shoulders tend to be slumped a bit and, as noted earlier, this restricts the movement of the diaphragm. This position also restricts air through the throat. So the best position for a brass player when sitting is to retain a straight back, not leaning against the back of the chair, and the instrument held up high enough to be comfortable but not to restrict air flow. This can often feel awkward, particularly when an individual has just started to learn it, but after a while it becomes easier. And have a look at some professional players, by and large their posture is good.
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