Where to breathe while playing the ocarina

People new to the ocarina often have trouble knowing where to breathe. The key is to understand phrasing. A musical phrase is like a sentence, a complete musical 'idea'. It is important to align your breaths with the phrases, as breaking the middle of one is usually jarring.

Depending on the genre, phrases may have a consistent or varying length. The phrases of traditional dance music fall into the former category, since it is written to carry a rhythm for dancing. Consequently, the phrases are easy to identify. Here is the first part of the Kesh Jig for example:


X: 1
T: The Kesh - a part
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:G3 GAB| A3 ABd|edd gdd|edB dBA|
GAG GAB|ABA ABd|edd gdd|BAF G3:|

This tune breaks into the four two bar phrases below. Breaths should be taken at the end of these. This is done by dropping or shortening the last note of the phrase.


X: 1
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
"Phrase 1" G3 GAB  | A3 ABd  |
"Phrase 2" edd gdd | edB dBA |
"Phrase 3" GAG GAB | ABA ABd |
"Phrase 4" edd gdd | BAF G3: |

Song melodies

Phrases in song melodies are rarely this rigid and usually follow the structure of the lyrics. Take the following Welsh folk song, for example:


X: 1
T: The Ash Grove - verse 1
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A2 | d2f2ag | f2d2d2 | e2 g2e2 | c2A2
w: The ash grove, h-ow grace-ful, how plain-ly

In my opinion, this divides into three phrases, two short ones at a long one. Notice that the pick up note (anacrusis) has shifted the end of the phrase relative to the bar line. The final note of line 1 bar 3 is the start of phrase 2.


X: 1
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
"Phrase 1" A2 | d2f2ag | f2d2
w: The ash grove, h-ow grace-ful
"Phrase 2" d2 | e2 g2e2 | c2A2
w: how plain-ly

If you want to play a song listen to several people sing it. Pay attention to where the singers take breaths. While the melody often repeats unchanged, how it is phrased often changes with the lyrics in different verses.

Hopefully this helps. Knowing where to breathe isn't complicated once you've identified the phrases.

Exercises

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