Stagger Breathing

A reading from the Madison Scouts 2012 Brass Manual

Stagger Breathing

When listening to long sustained chords from a brass ensemble, you will notice that the best ensembles sustain these chords without holes in the sound. The “wall of sound” is created by utilizing a technique called stagger breathing. Essentially the wall of sound is created by each performer in the brass ensemble following this simple process:

1. Know when you are going to breathe & commit to the breathing

  • You must commit to the breath even if you are not running out of air

2. Don’t breathe at the same time as the person(s) next to you

  • 2 or more people in the same proximity breathing at the same time creates holes in the sound

3. Fade out

  • A rapid, one beat decrescendo
  • Don’t allow the pitch to drift out of tune
  • Don’t allow your tone to change

4. Breathe

  • One beat to take in a full breath
  • The breath should immediately follow the decrescendo; no gaps between the end of the decrescendo and the full breath in

5. Fade back in

  • A rapid, one beat crescendo from a niente – no gaps between the end of the breath and the beginning of the crescendo
  • Do not rearticulate the front of the note – “ah” articulation
  • Be in-tune and in-tone all the way through the crescendo




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