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Classical Guitar Lessons: "Breakdowns" and Relaxed Breathing

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This is a lesson on breakdowns,
getting more specific on,
on actual, on what a breakdown is.
We've covered it in a couple other
lessons, just on pieces.
But I wanted to have a lesson just
specifically on that topic.
On breakdowns.
And how to incorporate relaxed breathing
during your most difficult passages.
So this is gonna, this will be a lesson in
two parts.
In the second part we're gonna give more
examples from but
for now, just kinda go over some of the
I found that, well.
Myself included.
And a lot of players are often holding
their breath or at least,
at the very least, straining it during a
tough passage.
I've even encountered students that, once
they became aware of their breathing,
they realized that they were holding their
breath for long periods of time.
So, if you're holding your breath or kind
of clenching the diaphragm muscles, it's,
it's, it's a little bit if, it's quite a
bit of tension, actually, because they're
very strong muscles, and it's something
that you want to be able to practice out.
Well, how do, how does one practice that
Well, my, the thing I found a lot of
success with, for myself and for
a lot of other students, is, is, to use,
the breakdown,
concept of practicing where you break in
a, let's say a two or
three measure spot that's pretty, has, you
know, three or four hard things in it.
And you break them down into small pieces
and then put them back together.
And each of those breakdowns you practice
exhaling actually through the shift.
And often I find it's shifts that are
what, or
make, make players the most tense.
So the idea is that you have like, you
know if,
you know, say, we'll take a, we'll take a
Sor B minor A2.
A very popular piece.
That, one of the, the last phrase is, it's
the second to last phrase here.
This here.
Sorry I already made a buzz [INAUDIBLE],
right here, that's a tough shift right
And then this shift here.
For a lot of players in their first three
that's a pretty tough series of shifts and
finger moves.
Kind of, kind of complex.
So, if you're finding that you struggle
with something like that,
have a repetition or two where you're
basically more an observer of your breath.
And I want you to notice if you're, and
this is for some more of the intermediate
and advanced players.
And, and if you're more of a, a beginner
player in the first three,we're
gonna work through some Segovia scales
with this right now.
But in this situation, have a repetition
where you're just more of an observer.
And that will tell you where the toughest
notes are.
If you're where, it's basically wherever
you stop breathing or you start
holding your breath or you start clenching
or you may, may even be in your shoulders.
This will tell you where the, where the
tough, the toughest notes really are.
Even more than your intellect will.
Sometimes we have a, a series of tough
moves and
we think, well that's the toughest one.
But really it's your, it's literally your
gut that will, that will tell you.
So find the, find a couple of spots that
are in, we'll, we'll just take that
passage because that's a typically hard
one for some sort of early an A tune.
Find the core two to three notes of that
passage and just try, and
just practice exhaling through them.
Exhaling, the act of exhaling actually
does really incredible things for
relaxing not just the, the breathing
muscles, but all of your muscles.
So what I find is when I have something
that's making me pretty tense, or
I find something that feels difficult or
I'm flexing a lot to,
in order to get, in order to try to to
execute it well.
I'll take that passage.
I got, so if we take this first shift
Take a nice, you know, deep breath.
And then I exhale through that shift.
So that I'm already exhaling before I get
to the shift.
Exhale, so
I'm, I'm exhaling right around here.
I'm starting my exhale in the middle of
this arpeggio, which is not hard to play.
And so this is also what I'm doing is I'm
doing a breakdown of that particular move.
I'm breaking down just right to the shift
and now and I'll add a note.
You may have heard this in some of the
other lessons we've done now where you,
where you use your breakdowns.
You, you practice right at the break down
and then you add a note and
practice again.
So this is kind of an expansion outward of
the core two or three notes.
So I added that next note.
The fourth finger here.
All the time, every time I'm doing it, I'm
trying to do an exhale before,
just before I get to that passage.
And as I'm exhaling I'm trying to release
any tension from my shoulders, neck,
my, my hands, anywhere.
So this is a really great very simple
exercise actually to get you aware of how
easy something can feel that,
that intellectually you might feel is
That your, that your mind will be telling
you that it's very hard to do.
For you begin, beginners, anyone in their
first three years of study,
start now with this kind of thing and with
the Segovia scale shifts.
The, the, if you're, if you're working on
the Segovia scales and
the fundamental skills block, start this,
skill, which it, it basically is
relaxation and
playing relaxed as I'm describing now is
really just a skill that you practice.
Start with the, Segovia scale shifts in
the C major scale, for example.
See, we have that shift right here, one,
three, one on the third string.
So if you can kind of time a breath where
you, you are exhaling.
We are basically exhaling on the G note or
the A.
It takes some practice to get the timing
And you exhale as,
right during the shift.
The exhale over time when you practice it
will actually counteract any tendencies
to grip, you know, to either flex the
muscles or to tense up, or to tense those
diaphragm muscles, as people commonly call
them, your breathing muscles.
So you can even start very early in your
first year with this kind of thing.
It's a great skill to develop, it develops
a lot of awareness of your muscles.
It's a great early trainer those Segovia
scales in fact are a great early trainer
for this kind of thing because there, they
have a lot of shifts in them.
And my experience has been that shifting
seems to be the thing that really makes
players the most tense.
So, try that out and we'll have part two
in thee next lesson
Breakdowns and
Relaxed Breathing Part 2.
This is just gonna, this, this part's just
gonna show a couple of examples from
from an intermediate piece and then one
from an advanced piece.
Advanced piece kind of being from my own
And about how to use the breakdowns
process, which we've covered in lots of
these lessons on the hard parts, you know,
just some of the more difficult parts.
How to un, incorporate and you really
literally develop a skill of breathing,
exhaling in order to help these passages
become easier.
So I would like to use an example from the
intermediate block.
This is Adalita, and in fact in the
Adalita lesson
we used this passage here in this, this
second half of the piece.
[SOUND] Right here.
[SOUND] This [SOUND] this ornament shift,
and then ornament.
So this ornament with a bar, which is
Shift, another bar and than an ornament.
After that, the passage becomes easier.
The next five notes.
But right there,
there's about three or four very tough
things to do all in succession.
So I'm gonna demonstrate a breakdown
I'll name them by, I'll name the process
with steps.
I'll go through it in steps.
Step one.
So, just play to here.
Just play to the first hard thing, which
for most players is [NOISE] just
doing that [NOISE] that [NOISE] that
ornament with the bar underneath.
So, once you've identified that breakdown,
that group of notes that you're going to
focus on.
Now try to do a pass where you exhale
during it.
And try to time the exhale,
you do the start of your exhale bef, about
three notes
before [SOUND] this, be, before the
ornamented note.
What the exhale will do is it will relax
and help you relax all of your muscles.
So that you'll be using as little effort
as possible during that shift.
So that's one part of the break down.
And then of course a,
a great tool that we've discussed in many
lessons called, what I call add a note.
[LAUGH] In tandem with your breakdowns
helps you to augment that passage so that
you can get back to
playing the passage in it's entirety,
which is the whole point isn't it.
To be able to perform a very tough passage
without stopping.
So then, the next breakdown could be maybe
step two would be this
Or maybe
maybe those, those three notes.
Maybe those, you know,
those three-eighth notes.
Ornament, shift, ornament.
Now that I've identified it and I've put
some focus into it,
now I'm gonna try to actually exhale
through it.
So I inhale, and then exhale.
Like this, and
that really relaxes my whole body and my
hands too.
And then so, so on and so forth.
The notes after that are a lot easier.
So then and maybe I'll step three I'll put
those together,
those two little chunks, and I'll, then
I'll put them together.
Now I've identified that section,
and now I'll do another pass where I try
to exhale during it.
So on and so forth.
So that, that way actually, when you have
the, when you have the whole passage
there, you, you have to play a little bit
at a faster speed too of course cuz you
wanna make, you want the exhale to last
during the entire passage.
So try working with that.
Another breakdown thing for a really
advance piece I've noticed for,
well considered who has this little mind
field of,
of tough passages, but one of the toughest
ones for me.
It's different for different, for
different advanced players that
play this piece regularly, but for me,
so that's, that's a really tough one,
cuz it's got this sudden shift and you
don't have any time to really prepare for
it, you're really just throwing your hand
at it.
and then that shift there.
So, I spend a lot of time
exhaling through that shift.
The, that space between the four quick
sixteenths and
this note right here, I spend probably the
most time.
You know.
[NOISE] Within the context of
within the context of that chunk right
there I get real small, I go very, very
specific and just go to the 16th note.
And then to the shift.
So I spend a lot of time when I have the
time to,
to practice it exhaling through that
So that's an example of a very advanced
passage and I'm sure for
the advanced players out there and, and,
and you can think of, since
you're playing advanced pieces you can
think of dozens and dozens of passages.
In the pieces that you that you have.
I've mentioned in other lessons in the
advanced block to go ahead and make a,
a most wanted list of every, with any
piece that you're studying,
I can think of with any piece that I'm
studying the top five or
top ten list of the most difficult
So, think of that first then find your
breakdown of the core,
two, three, four, five notes.
And then try this practice of, of actually
breathing through the shift.
Don't worry about the speed or the tempo,
just do this first.
And I think you'll find the, the speed
will take care of itself, and
that you'll be playing it,
playing those passages at the tempo with a
lot more ease and comfort.