A technique utilized by players of wind instruments, in which air is taken in through the nose while simultaneously being pushed out through the mouth. This is used so that musicians can play long notes and phrases will appearing not to breathe. Most notably, this is used by saxophone player Kenny G.

Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has the ability to circular breathe but he refuses to do so. As his father once told him, his listeners would pay attention to how long he played, and not what he was actually playing.

Sadly, Wynton Marsalis has not achieved the pop culture status that Kenny G has, but perhaps it's for the best. Wynton puts on a better show, and I don't have to worry about the venue selling out.

Most notably, the technique invented by aborigines in Australia. Modern jazz performers have adapted these techniques for their own styles. Kenny G's record for longest note is of little relevance compared to the ritual playing of a didjeridoo, which can last several hours.

The technique of playing the didjeridu is unique amongst other woodwind instruments. You blow down the tube with loose lips to create a droning sound (on a trumpet the lips are tight). What is different with the didjeridu is that you do not stop blowing. In order to do this a technique known as "circular breathing" is used.

Circular Breathing demands great concentration at first but once learned it becomes automatic. Using the mouth as an airbag similar to that of bagpipes you squeeze the air out of your mouth using the cheeks and tongue whilst snatching short breaths through your nose. A good player can keep the sound going for 10 minutes without stopping.

Some techniques:
1. Fill your mouth with water. Now using your cheeks and tongue, squeeze the water out of your mouth and take short breaths in through the nose.
2. Get a drinking straw, twist the end of it making it hard to blow air out of, but not too hard. Fill a glass of water, place the straw in the glass, and proceed to blow the air out of the straw by squeezing the cheeks and whilst using the tongue to push out the last of the air in your mouth. Take short breaths in through the nose.

A glass of water is used so that you can see by the the air bubbles how constant your breathing is.

Remember the skill is to mechanically expel the air out of your mouth, as it is impossible to breathe in through your nose while blowing out though your mouth. It takes quite a bit of concentration so take your time and think about what you are doing. Circular breathing can be used at any time to keep the lungs filled with air whilst the instrument is being played. Once circular breathing has been accomplished other playing techniques can be introduced.

-FromThe Didjeridu of the Australian Aboriginal an instructional booklet by Peter Kaye (1987)

Circular breathing will not help you pass a breathalyzer test. It is physically impossible to move air from your nose to your mouth without it first going into your lungs. I suppose if you involved some tubing and a friend you might be able to pull it off, but I would not recommend that.

Even when circular breathing, you are still inhaling through the nose into the lungs and then exhaling out through the mouth. The reason you can create a continuous stream is because you exhale into your mouth from your lungs a little faster than you allow the air to leave your mouth. This causes your cheeks to inflate. Once your lungs are empty, you squeeze this left over air out of your mouth while inhaling quickly through your nose.

The didjeridu is not the only instrument that is played exclusively using circular breathing. The island of Sardinia has an ancient reed instrument called the Launeddas that is played in a similar fashion.

The Gyoto Monks in/of Tibet also chant using a circular breathing technique that involves no instrument at all but their own vocal cords. Mesmerizing.

There is a form of circular breathing that has nothing to do with music.

In the dark hours before dawn one morning, my then-girlfriend and I stumbled upon it. We had been up all night, experiencing one another, and the entity that was us. We were kissing slowly, tasting one another, disregarding time.

It has been known for some time that infants' cardiac and respiratory rhythms tend to mimic those of the people surrounding them. I suppose that what we have been experiencing since that night is analogous. As we kissed, the ebb and flow of our breathing slowly and inexorably synchronized. It was perfect, effortless.

It began with our noses, touching in the dark. As she inhaled, I exhaled. As she exhaled, I inhaled. The kisses gradually ceased as breath overwhelmed us. We began to breath through our mouths, with an unspoken unity that was almost frightening in its intimacy. We slowly moved our open mouths together and finally

closed the circuit.
The air we breathed was ours and no one else's.

It was a glimpse of the gods.

We shared the same breath for nearly two minutes, tasting the oxygen dwindling. Letting our heads swim. Watching the world dissolve in an anaerobic haze, in the closed system of us. I have never been closer to anyone since I left the womb.

What actually happens while practicing circular breathing has already been covered by other writeups, so I won't repeat that here. I have however found these writeups regrettably incapable of teaching me how to accomplish this apparently incredibly difficult feat. There seemed to be so many things going on simultaneously that I didn't know where to start.

Here is what worked (works?) for me, while learning to play the didgeridoo. Consider this writeup a work in progress, as I've only just begun practicing.

It is assumed that you already know how to produce the basic drone, just that you don't have enough breath to keep it going indefinitely.

First, alternate between producing a drone and taking that snatch of air in through your nose. Forget about that whole air-blown-out-from cheeks business for now. The sound should be similar to the line-engaged signal, thus:

drone ----. .----. .----. .----. .
          | |    | |    | |    | |
          | |    | |    | |    | |
no drone  `-'    `-'    `-'    `-'
I find that a frequency of 160 cycles per minute works best for my lung capacity.

Your task now is to smoothen out the valleys where the instrument is silent. You know the drill - keep your cheeks puffed while you exhale, and squeeze it out while you inhale. If you've got the basic rhythm down now, doing these two things in sync shouldn't be too hard. Now you can practice keeping the instrument humming for a larger and larger part of the period where you breathe in, until the gap is completely bridged.

Now try varying the pressure in the two phases of the cycle, and see if you can make them match up better. This stage is the one I am at right now.

The main difficulty with circular breathing seems no longer to me to be managing to breathe in and blow out at the same time. What I've discovered, is that this technique is actually physically exhausting. I don't think I'm doing anything wrong; another writeup mentioned that the best players could presumably keep a continuous drone for up to 10 minutes. It's taxing on the cardiovascular system, and it seems that the velum gets tired by quickly opening and closing -- at least mine starts to hang down after a while, making it feels as if I'm snoring. A rather unpleasant feeling to have in waking life, if you ask me.

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