Circular Breathing

Circular breathing is a technique that allows players to breathe in one continuous stream of air.

The player must breathe in air through the nose to replenish the air in the lungs.

Reed and brass players employ this technique much more frequently than flutists. In fact, flutists find it extremely difficult.

Why? Flutists use air very inefficiently. Because of the type of mouthpiece on the flute, a lot of air is wasted when producing the sound.

On the other, reeds and brasses focus their air directly into a mouthpiece and much less is lost.

Still some flutists use this style of breathing quite successfully. Flutist, Robert Dick, is world renowned for his mastery of extended techniques.

Listen to Robert's masterclass on breathing in a circular style here.

Robert Dick has written a definitive book on circular breathing for the flutist. Trevor Wye calls it, "the last word on how to do it!" Pick up a copy at

Being able to play long phrases without gasping for air or breaking the phrase at a musically inappropriate place is very alluring to flutists. Although not easy to learn, circular-style breathing might be worth exploring.

Many people feel that it compromises the tone quality. However, like many other extended techniques, such as whistle tones, simply practicing the technique can be of great benefit.

Just imagine the possibilities if you mastered the circular manner of breathing. You could place emphasis on where the phrases occur on a musical level, NOT where you run out of breath. Dynamics would not have to be compromised for the need to breathe.

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