Big breaths & baby breaths


The week’s gotten off to an interesting start and in a number of different settings, I’m thinking about breath. I’ve been working on a funding application and those can really drain the life-force out of you. But I came across a video of a stranded octopus thanking the man who saved him and that made me feel much better.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Holland and there was a bit of a flight disaster. First, we were put on standby due to overbooking which we quickly made peace with; Schiphol is an OK airport to be stuck in as airports go. And at 5 euro (!) for some orange juice, clearly a bargain. Then, the flight we were on standby for got cancelled and suddenly everyone was trying to get on different flights, not just us. No space on any flight to London for at least 24 hours. So, we got a flight to Leeds. This was fine because we had a Family Band the next day in Durham, as part of the Brass Festival. What wasn’t so fine was that our instruments were in London.

Dave Walker at All Brass & Woodwind came to our rescue and we went into the shop to find instruments AND mouthpieces to use on the gig. Dave makes his own instruments and they play really well. I’m picky when it comes to valves but luckily, Arturo Sandoval had been playing Dave’s horns and had stretched the springs in one of the trumpets to brighten up the valves so felt great to play. Playing on a new mouthpiece and horn for the first time on a gig is a bit mental and it feels like trying to cook something in someone else’s kitchen; nothing’s where you think it is.

An unexpected bonus was that I ended up coming home with a piccolo trumpet. I’ve been on the lookout for one for a while and fortune favoured the flight-diverted so I bought it.

It’s led to me thinking a lot about breathing because it really is a different approach than trumpet. I’m so used to really filling up with air in preparation to play and if you do that on piccolo, all the air gets trapped in your throat with nowhere to go.  I’ve been checking out some helpful stuff on youtube, and someone said that you should approach piccolo the way you breathe while asleep. Sleeping, your lungs move between 40 – 55% capacity. He suggested that if the deep trumpet breath is a reflex, to breathe as you would then expel some air before playing the note. That’s helped a lot. Someone else said a lot of the difficulty with piccolo is psychological and I’m inclined to agree with that, too.

The great thing that working on piccolo helps with trumpet, too and makes you so aware of intonation which can never be a bad thing. So I’m having a nice thing on my voyage of baby trumpet and baby breaths discovery.

The big breaths are coming in handy when faced with difficult emails and business stuff. Some very smart people have taught me always to sleep on sending a response to an email that produces an emotional reaction in you. STERLING ADVICE. Emails are pretty crappy when it comes to important stuff; often unavoidable but still crappy.

Fate doesn’t hang on a wrong or right choice, 

Fortune depends on the tone of your voice.

The Divine Comedy are right. That’s where emails fall short. Alas! This is the world in which we live, so some deep breaths, some perspective and listening to Peter Evans’ album A Quietness of Water is all it takes to get stuff done.

Life is one big sequence of big breaths & baby breaths.


Stranded Octopus Thanks Rescuer

Peter Evans – A Quietness of Water

The Divine Comedy – Songs of Love