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Breathing Devices

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

For this blog post I am going to discuss the use of breathing devices. I don’t think enough focus is put on breathing by wind musicians and especially not by teachers who teach beginners. Sometimes more focus is put on the type of instrument played, type of mouthpiece used and the embouchure. Most of the time, a much greater improvement in ability can be found by working on breathing and not buying a new instrument or worrying about how your embouchure looks. I have used one type of breathing device for as long as I can remember but I have a few others which I use from time to time. There are many more out there and there is even a wide range of prices for products that look the same so be careful when spending your money.

For me, I prioritise by size. I want a small device I can keep in my instrument case, can pack in a hand luggage bag or just leave in my car. In the picture below, you can see 3 different types of device, plus my mouthpiece. As a low brass player, I am lucky because my mouthpiece can also serve as a breathing device. Read on to find out more.

To understand why using a breathing device is good, just imagine a dumbbell. What is its use and why is it beneficial? There is no arguing that it isn’t beneficial and over time, if used correctly, results will be clear in the muscles and strength of our body. Using a breathing device strengthens the muscles that we use to breathe with, such as our diaphragm. I am not going to attempt to get into any more scientific details, the studies with athletes, musicians and in healthcare, which can be found online, speak for themselves.

Including the mouthpiece, I have 4 devices as you can see in the photo.

1) My mouthpiece is a standard euphonium large bore mouthpiece.

2) Respiratory breather with adjustable settings.

3) Lung exerciser with vibration

4) Ultrabreathe

I will talk through each device a little and explain some of the pros and cons but I generally have 4 main uses for all the devices.

1) Forceful, almost aggressive belly breathing in short bursts. No pain, no gain!

2) Consistent light breathing with resistance for long periods of time.

3) Quick blasts in-between repetitions during practice on my instrument.

4) Use at any time I might feel a little anxious, so not really with music in mind.

The Mouthpiece

I use a K&G 4D mouthpiece but any euphonium mouthpiece will do. If you are looking to buy a new mouthpiece here is my affiliate link to amazon:

I was shown this trick by euphonium legend Steven Mead. You put your finger inside the large end of the mouthpiece to block the hole, put your lips over the small end and breathe in and out. You can adjust the resistance somewhat by pressing further in with your finger.

Pros You don’t need to buy a breathing device

You don’t need to carry another item with you

Cons You have to remove it from your instrument to use it

Your finger might be too big or small

Respiratory Breather

Here is a link to the exact one I purchased:

This is my go to device for longer term use such as car journeys or just while I am doing something else. It has a lower resistance on the inhale and exhale and is incredibly relaxing when used for long periods of time. When you take a normal breath after, you feel very free and can take in much more air.

Pros Very relaxing

Ability to easily adjust the resistance

Cons It doesn’t get to a very high resistance

Lung Exerciser

Here is the link to the one I purchased:

This is an interesting device because it is also advertised as helping with clearing mucus. It has a metal ball inside and when you blow out it makes a vibration which you can feel down your neck and into your chest. I have noticed the effect it has on mucus, it seems to free up your chest, but I use this one for harder breathing training. The breath in is normal with this device but after just a few fast breaths out, you really feel like you have been doing sit ups.

Pros Helps direct energy to the diaphragm

Can help clear your airway of mucus

Cons There is no resistance for the breath in

It is more noisy and the ball rattles around when moved


Here is a link to the one I have:

This has been my main device for many years. It has a wide range of adjustments so you can make the resistance while breathing in and out contrast greatly from very easy to very hard. I also find that it can also be used to create the hardest breathing exercise and gets the best results. You have to put the whole thing in your mouth, like a snorkel and you can bite down on it. This is the part I like less so I tend to use this device for shorter bursts during my actual euphonium practice. It encourages me to rest as long as I play and is great for working on loud or high passages.

Pros The most range of resistance for in and out breathing

Cons Can make you gag

Needs cleaning more

I hope you find this blog interesting and useful and that it helps you with your progress as a musician!

Mark Glover

August 2023

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