How to Apply the Breathing Bag to Exercises – Part 2

breathing bags

Marcel Moyse: 20 Exercises et Études – Exercise 14

Moyse wrote difficult passages with some intervals ranging in single to double octaves, including interval inversions. As a result, the exercises in this method book are advanced and challenging for flutists. In exercise 14, arpeggios ascend from the low to high register with a fermata pp dynamic. Moyse instructed to play En ralentissant in this exercise, or “to gradually slow down the tempo.” This exercise also requires pauses and smoothness in the upper register, as shown a portion of this exercise in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Marcel Moyse, 20 Exercises et Études, p.34

figure 1





Usually lower notes require greater air flow and less air pressure. In contrast, higher notes should be played with more air pressure while using less air. However, this challenging section can easily cause physical tension, especially during the high registers with a pp dynamic. If flutists have a loose and flexible rib cage, this allows for smooth and effortless breath. Practicing with the breathing bag could help flutists increase flexibility in the rib cage without creating physical tension. Therefore, for this exercise flutists should practice ‘playing’ or exhaling the phrase into the bag, and watch their breath fill the bag first, and then continue exhaling and inhaling silently, while remaining aware of stiffness in the rib cage. After practicing several times, flutists can duplicate the feeling of air release into the flute. By using the breathing bag, flutists can gain greater breath control during challenging phrases.


Marcel Moyse: 20 Exercises et Études – Exercises 7

This exercise, Moyse stated, “To be studied piano, forte, with double and triple tonguing, in duple and triple time.” This exercise consists of chromatic scales both ascending and descending. Moyse wrote two different rhythmic patterns which are sixteenth notes in 3/4 meter, and sixteenth-note triplets in a 2/4 meter, as shown a portion of this exercise in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Marcel Moyse, “20 Exercises et Études”, p.16.


figure 2




Flutists can learn how to properly support their articulation with air using the breathing bag. For example, flutists could practice double or triple tonguing while exhaling in order to fill up the bag. By doing so, flutists can learn how to control the air stream with articulation and watch their air flow. Most importantly, if the breathing bag does not move while tonguing, this indicates the air does not properly support the articulations, with a stiff tongue as the main symptom. In that situation, flutists can try to keep the articulation longer, so the air can properly support the articulation.



Practicing with a breathing bag helps build a strong foundation of flute practicing techniques. Most of all, the breathing bag addresses a common problem of flute instruction about breath control, which relies strongly on demonstration and intuition, versus a more concrete tools based approach. The breathing bag can be a useful self-teaching device when learning challenging exercises, such as Moyse’s etudes. Overall, the breathing bag helps flutists practice and perform music in an effective and demonstrable way.

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