Breathing with the nose

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    Hello all! Mitch, I am sure you have gone over this at some point but I apparently missed the lesson on this one…I have always struggled with having enough breath while playing and after four years here I have been trying to pinpoint the cause. So my question is around “the nose”. What is the role of the nose in breathing while playing the harp? I find that my notes are so much sweeter if I regulate the amount of breath coming in and out through my nose but I also run out of air too often. I have heard some say to use the nose to regulate breath and then I have heard others say to never use the nose. I welcome any tips or wisdom on this subject from you all out there in harmonica land. Thanks, Shawn

    • This topic was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by shawnshawn.
    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger

    Hey Shawn,

    Generally speaking, the nose should not be used at all when playing the harmonica. You are right, it reduces tone, and it will make techniques like bending more difficult. The key to breath control is a healthy diaphragm and healthy lungs. Using the nose is a short cut that unfortunately will become a bad habit if left unchecked.

    Now… if you are a master of circular breathing, then I would say the nose is an asset. As air is going in through your nose and coming out your mouth directly.

    In short all the air you breath across a reed should not be diluted by splitting the air through the nose, but if you want to breath in through your nose to take in a little more air in between playing notes, or as a circular breath style, then no problem.

    Hope that helps! 🙂


    Thank you for this nugget o wisdom, Mitch… it has been priceless! Seriously it has been such a shift and hard to believe I was playing like that for so long. I could feel something was off, but now that I am practicing not using my nose… whoa does it make a difference!!!

    So for example… I am on Lick of the week #40 and I was practicing it before your advice and now that I am doing it with my nose closed… whoa is it different. I have become aware of so many more subtleties of my playing.
    1. Relearning how to make a good sound on the 1 and 2 holes without my nose.
    2. How much air I am letting out and in… on this particular chug I am finding that I can’t let out too much air on my out breath because I will run out of air for my in breath and it won’t be balanced.
    3. My playing always sounded so breathy and I wondered how people’s recordings sounded so clean especially over a mic… like “how did they play without the mic picking up the breath going in and out of the nose?” Lol! I get it now😂

    I realize that this will get easier as I strengthen my lung capacity. But it’s been good for me to realize that I was wasting breath and now to see how to manage breath. Before I was managing my breath like a teenager without any clue of money manages a new credit card lol!

    It’s really helpful to see how to manage breath like when I am playing a long phrase that involves a lot of out breath vs. a lot of in breath and how I have to account for that and breath accordingly. I am sure this will all become second nature especially as my lungs get stronger but right now it amazes me how it feels like learning to drive a stick shift.

    My playing has already made drastic improvements, so again thanks so much for this… it is pretty exciting having made this shift and the doors it is opening in my playing!


    Also I forgot to say that one of the biggest shifts was going from shallow breathing to breathing from my diaphragm …playing from the diaphragm… so helpful!

    Wayne PrestonWayne Preston

    Way to go Shawn!
    Keep up the good work and practice.
    Great to hear of the improvement.

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